The Discerning Texan
-- Edmund Burke
Saturday, August 09, 2008
VERY Ominous Storm Clouds in Georgia
There is more...read the whole thing.
... This is nothing less than a direct challenge to the U.S. and an effort to break the Georgian government so as to put back into power the pro-Russia group (or even under direct control). The surface cause is one that has been built up over the last several years, with Russia pushing as hard as it could get away with internationally to put in "peacekeepers" openly and arm/support the rebels not terribly clandestinely. There have been several previous attempts to spark a reaction from Georgia, including direct incursions into Georgian territory, incursions into Georgian airspace, and even attacks on Georgian aircraft and other assets. Behind it lies several factors.
First, there is the fact that Russia wants to control the border states just as it did before. They have not been shy about it in some of the other states, but Georgia and Ukraine both had something the others didn't: resources. The poorer countries with no major resources, lack of communications (and interest in them by the world community), and no major prospects were fairly easy to control. Georgia and Ukraine, however, have a variety of other resources and have more developed relations with the rest of the world. That said, Russia tried very openly and even ham-handedly to control them and to rig elections so that the Russian-controlled factions would win. They need those states as a buffer, and have not taken the failures there with anything approaching good grace.
Second, there are some strategic resources at play, including oil. Remember that Georgia was a major part of the old Silk Road, which interestingly enough today could almost be thought of as the jihad road given that the hot-spots of jihad from western China to eastern Europe follow this route. Trade has been a part of Georgia not for centuries, but easily a millennia or three. A lot of oil and natural gas flow through Georgia, including a good bit of Russian -- and Georgia hasn't been as easy to blackmail as Europe in this regard. Energy, minerals, food, trade -- Russia really, really wants control again.
Third, Georgia has not just turned away from Moscow, it has openly embraced the West and minor things like free-market capitalism, which is opening doors even wider for concepts of individual liberty, freedom, etc. This is an anathema on its own, but the thought of having that message seen by the restive provinces nearby is enough to give any of the powers/power factions in Moscow absolute conniptions.
Fourth, that embracing of the West has meant an embracing of Western (primarily American) military thought and equipment. It has meant an effort to join NATO, that Putin expended considerable effort and resources to defeat. Even without being able to join, Georgia has continued to work to integrate its forces into being able to work with NATO troops and equipment (meaning U. S. forces) and has, I believe, openly indicated its willingness to work on future systems and development -- including missile defense.
Fifth, despite its efforts to upgrade and improve its forces, the fact that Georgia has been unable to deal with the Pankisi Gorge is more than a major irritant to Moscow. The Gorge is haven to groups that have dealt Russia multiple defeats and bloody noses in Chechnya and has resisted Russian, Georgian, and purportedly other efforts to deal with it. The additional problem, in Moscow's eyes, is that Georgia is reaching a point where it might could deal with it -- which means it also could deal with Russia on an equal or even superior footing militarily and diplomatically. Russia wants very much to deal decisively with the Gorge, but having anyone else do it is extremely problematic. The current situation works for them, in that it gives them leverage on the Georgian government and, if they do move in, a claim on Georgian territory. Georgia knows this very well, which is why they have never given permission for Russia to move in and deal with it. Break the Georgian military, break the problem..
Sixth, this is also a semi-indirect attack against the United States and its alliances. Note multiple statements from Medvedev and Lavrov aimed at those who have trained/armed/encouraged Georgia. Not only is it in part a preemptive move against future missile-defense are related activities, it is a direct move against current missile defense via the Czech Republic and other eastern European countries. Russia has already stated that it would view any such as an act of aggression and that a military response was likely. Part of what is being done now is to show the Czech's and others that being an ally doesn't mean the U.S. really will defend you. If we don't back our ally against a direct military attack here, the lesson is clearly made that the U.S. will not do anything about an attack on their territory. It could also be the start of an effort to make the case that attacking our missile defense in another country is not really an attack on us, but a justifiable action (in the eyes of the U.N., certain so-called international courts, and in particular the European Union courts and ministries). Yet, if we do aid our ally, particularly if we do so strongly, it raises the spectre of a direct conflict between the U.S. and Russia, not to mention jeopardizing any number of ongoing efforts. It even raises the possibility (and I have little doubt that this point is already being raised by Moscow) of Russia reducing or even cutting off gas and oil to Europe for any number of excuses. The EU member states would, I fear, not even hesitate before throwing Georgia -- and even the US -- to the bear, as it were.
UPDATE: McCain and Obama's alternate reactions to this crisis are as telling as anything in this campaign:
With Iran, North Korea, and now Russia squarely taking military sides against the United States and its allies, the world is in a very precarious position. It is Prague Spring in Georgia.
Barack Obama has been criticized for acting as though he is already President. That's natural, since the actions in question have been presumptuous: the pseudo-Presidential seal, the speech in Germany, and so on. Today, one might say that John McCain is acting as though he is already President, but in a substantive and positive way. In his response to Russia's invasion of Georgia, McCain is giving us a preview of what sort of President he would be.
McCain has strongly and unequivocally come out in support of our ally Georgia, while placing the onus for the war squarely where it belongs, on Russia. In this, he has aligned himself with our most loyal European allies. Obama, on the other hand, issued the sort of vapid statement that would ingratiate him with the State Department while not requiring any distraction from his Hawaii vacation. An interesting point, by the way: McCain is supposed to be the old guy, but Obama is the one who needs a vacation.
Here is the latest from the McCain campaign:This afternoon I spoke, for the second time since the crisis began, with Georgian President Saakashvili. It is clear the situation is dire. Russian aggression against Georgia continues, with attacks occurring far beyond the Georgian region of South Ossetia. As casualties continue to mount, the international community must do all it can to avert further escalations. Tensions and hostilities between Georgians and Ossetians are in no way justification for Russian troops crossing an internationally recognized border. I again call on the Government of Russia to immediately and unconditionally withdraw its forces from the territory of Georgia.
Given this threat to Euro-Atlantic security, I am pleased to see the United States, the European Union, and NATO acting together by sending a delegation to the region, in an effort to broker a cease fire. This is an important first step.
The United Nations has been prevented from taking any meaningful action by Russian objections. In view of this, I welcome the statements of democratic nations defending the sovereignty of Georgia and condemning Russian actions.
I strongly support the declaration issued by the Presidents of Poland, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, and their commitment that 'aggression against a small country in Europe will not be passed over in silence or with meaningless statements equating the victims with the victimizers.'
I doubt that the Europeans were thinking of Obama when they wrote this, but who knows? Maybe they had seen this "meaningless statement equating the victims with the victimizers" from the Obama campaign:It’s both sides’ fault — both have been somewhat provocative with each other.
McCain's statement continues:I share their regret that NATO's decision to withhold from Georgia a Membership Action Plan may have been viewed as a green light for aggression in the region. As they propose, a new international peacekeeping force should be created, in light of -- as they observe -- the 'obvious bankruptcy of Russian "peacekeeping operations" in its immediate neighborhood.' In addition, Finnish Foreign Minister Stubb, the Chairman of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, has said there can be no return to the status quo in South Ossetia and that Russia cannot serve as a mediator in the South Ossetian conflict. Each of these leaders represents a country that has undergone what Georgia is now experiencing.
That last is a key point, but one that is no doubt lost on Obama and his advisers. It is often said that Obama is not ready to be President, but I don't think this is exactly right. It seems pretty obvious that Obama, given his temperament, his self-regard, his blithe ignorance of history and of the material conditions of life on this planet, will never be ready to be President. He is not unready: he is unsuited for, and inadequate to, the office.