August 11, 2008


Will Russia Get Away With It?: We owe Georgia, which has stood with US soldiers in Iraq, a serious effort to defend its sovereignty. (William Kristol, 8/11/08, Der Spiegel)

Will the United States put real pressure on Russia to stop? In a news analysis on Sunday, the New York Times reporter Helene Cooper accurately captured what I gather is the prevailing view in our State Department: “While America considers Georgia its strongest ally in the bloc of former Soviet countries, Washington needs Russia too much on big issues like Iran to risk it all to defend Georgia.”

But Georgia, a nation of about 4.6 million, has had the third-largest military presence — about 2,000 troops — fighting along with U.S. soldiers and marines in Iraq. For this reason alone, we owe Georgia a serious effort to defend its sovereignty. Surely we cannot simply stand by as an autocratic aggressor gobbles up part of — and perhaps destabilizes all of — a friendly democratic nation that we were sponsoring for NATO membership a few months ago.

For that matter, consider the implications of our turning away from Georgia for other aspiring pro-Western governments in the neighborhood, like Ukraine’s. Shouldn’t we therefore now insist that normal relations with Russia are impossible as long as the aggression continues, strongly reiterate our commitment to the territorial integrity of Georgia and Ukraine, and offer emergency military aid to Georgia?

Incidentally, has Russia really been helping much on Iran? It has gone along with — while delaying — three United Nations Security Council resolutions that have imposed mild sanctions on Iran. But it has also supplied material for Iran’s nuclear program, and is now selling Iran antiaircraft systems to protect military and nuclear installations.

It’s striking that dictatorial and aggressive and fanatical regimes — whatever their differences — seem happy to work together to weaken the influence of the United States and its democratic allies. So Russia helps Iran. Iran and North Korea help Syria. Russia and China block Security Council sanctions against Zimbabwe. China props up the regimes in Burma and North Korea.

When Frozen Wars Heat Up: Russia vs. Georgia (James S. Robbins, 8/11/08, National Review)
In retrospect the conflict is not entirely surprising; the last few months have seen a number of violent incidents in the separatist enclaves of South Ossetia and Abkhazia — shellings, bombings, kidnappings, shootings, and so forth. The frozen war was clearly defrosting.

Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili’s attempt to take back South Ossetia by force was certainly ill-timed and unwise. Perhaps he thought the inexperienced Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, who is nominally in charge of Russia’s defense policy, would be too indecisive to act. Or that the more capable Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who actually runs the country, would be too distracted by the opening ceremonies of the Olympics to take concerted action. Whatever Saakashvili was thinking, his offensive was a rash act, and the Russians demonstrated not only their willingness to intervene but their capability to drub the relatively small Georgian armed forces in a conventional fight. The lesson for Georgia is that they would not fare well against a full scale Russian invasion, though that does not appear to be Russia’s intention at this time.

Russia’s hypocrisy in supporting the cause of the Ossetians is stunning. During the conflict in Chechnya there was no question that the separatists would be annihilated, not given independence or a special status inside Russia. In the Kosovo war, Russia was a stalwart defender of principle of Serbian sovereignty against Kosovar self-determination. But when it comes to Georgia, Russia is suddenly the champion of “oppressed peoples.”

While we need to defend Georgia from the Russians on principle, Ossetia and Chechnya eventually get to self-determine.

Do the Right Thing: Nothing peachy about the Russian attack on Georgia. (Jonathan Foreman, 8/11/08, National Review)

As the U.S. figures out what to do about the Russia-Georgian war, it should bear in mind that the world is watching very closely. Georgia has proved itself as a true friend and ally of the United States; it has sent thousands of troops from its small army to help the U.S. efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Sure the Georgians got themselves into this conflict by launching a bid to recapture South Ossetia. But it wasn’t unprovoked — the Russians have been building up the government and armed forces of the breakaway province for years, and have been applying every kind of pressure to stop Georgia joining NATO, including aggressive measures like shooting down a Georgian aircraft earlier this year. And the Russians are in no position to criticize Georgia’s efforts to recapture breakaway territory given the tens of thousands the Russians killed to reverse Chechnya’s attempts to break free.

As Russian bombs rain down on key Georgian military bases, Ukraine and the Baltic states know all too well that they are next on the list for Russian invasion — probably with the same pretext of protecting Russian citizens — if the Kremlin gets away with crushing Georgia.

Also watching what happens in the Caucasus with one eye on the U.S. will be allied countries like Taiwan (it knows that U.S. corporations have long been pushing successive U.S. administrations to abandon Taiwanese democracy), Pakistan (it’s been dumped before), India, Turkey, the Gulf states, Israel, Iraq, Afghanistan, Japan, Australia, and Colombia… the list goes on.

Posted by Orrin Judd at August 11, 2008 6:03 AM

"the Russians have been building up the government and armed forces of the breakaway province for years." Sure... and the Georgian army has been build up with its own Georgian recourses? The US has spend a lot of money and training into the Georgian army. But off course America is allowed to do that, Russia isn't.

If Russia had build up the South Ossetian army it would have got rocket launchers, helicopters, planes and brute force enough to handle their conflict alone.

" when it comes to Georgia, Russia is suddenly the champion of “oppressed peoples.” - South Ossetians have Russian passports because they can't get any other passports including Georgian ones. Russia has a law that says they have to protect their citizens wherever they might be, including foreign soil. That also means EU and the US. There were also Russian peace-keepers in South Ossetia that came under attack and killed.

Posted by: Seraphiel at August 11, 2008 12:59 PM
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