“Georgia on my mind”

800pxmapgeorgia9847 Georgia has a flag.  It is very beautiful.  It was adopted a few years ago and is a reference the existence of a medieval Georgian state aligned in some way with the medieval Christian Kingdom of Jerusalem.  The design is that of the "cross of the five wounds," the Jerusalem Cross.  This was the symbol of the Kingdom of Jerusalem.

Georgia has a coat of arms.  The blazon features St. George (a personal favorite for me).  This is another medieval reference to Georgia’s alignment with the crusader states. St. George is the patron saint of the Palestinian Christians.  He was a Byzantine saint, well known throughout the region in the medieval period and still to be seen in decorative house art throughout Palestine.

The present state of Georgia has little to do with that period of Georgian national life.  Georgia in its present de jure boundaries, including; Ajara, Abkhazia and South Ossetia was created in the 1920s by the USSR, largely through the influence of Josef Stalin, an ethnic Georgian.

The Ossetes, Abkhazians and Ajaris are, for the most part, not ethnic Georgians.  Their primary languages are other than Georgian.  They were "shoehorned" into today’s Georgia by the USSR.

We Americans have not yet learned the difference between "state," and "nation."  That lacuna in our mentality cost us dearly in Iraq.

"Popular sovereignty" anyone?  pl

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74 Responses to “Georgia on my mind”

  1. Drongo says:

    St George is the patron saint of the English nation as well as of Georgia. The flag of England is not dissimilar to Georgia’s, being a red cross on a white bacground. It dates back to the time of king Richard I (the Lionheart), the crusader king who fought against Saladin and the Muslims in the Holy Land. There is no English state at present, rather a British state, (the UK)the union of the English, Welsh and Scottish nations, along with Northern Ireland, (neither state nor nation). Americans and other foreigners for the most part seem unaware of the difference between England and Britain, and habitually will refer to the political entity centred on London – the UK or Britain, as “England” and the people of the island as the English – much as folk will talk of Holland and the Netherlands as if they are the same thing. In the not too distant future, the island of Britain may be partitioned much as is the island of Ireland currently is: there is a distinct surge in Scotland towards separation from England and Wales and the establishment of a Scottish state representing the aspirations of the Scottish nation to self-government. Then there will be no familiar red white and blue union flag representing the UK: instead the Scots will have the white saltire cross of St Andrew against a blue background, and England will sport the red cross of St George against the white.
    There would be consequences of the partition of Britain. Currently, both the British and US navies have major nuclear submarine bases in Scotland, and Britain is of course a member of Nato. The sentiments of the Scottish Nationalist Party that favours Scottish separatism are towards the same sort of neutrality as practiced by the Irish Republic. Would a Scottish Republic/Kingdom withhold from applying for membership of Nato? Would England and the US be required to close down their nilitary bases in Scotland? What would be the consequences of this for the control of the North Atlantic and eastern Arctic approaches to Russia?

  2. Keith says:

    In practical terms, what is the difference between a stateless Ossetian and a stateless Chechen (besides the fact that the Kremlin approves of the one and not the other)?
    Is is inappropriate to view the respective responses to their aspirations of statehood side by side for comparison?

  3. Canuck says:

    Popular nationalism…does seem to be a trend.
    Iraq could be divided into Shiite, Sunni, and Kurd and any other uprising demanding independence in the future. The unrest in India could be divided into whatever religion a person happens to be. Israel could be: Jewish, Arab (several different types), Palestinian, Christian, and whatevers. 🙂

  4. J says:

    retro-history 04 – ‘silence’ from d.c. as the georgians ‘seized’ the autonomous region of ajara, and forced their foreign georgian ways upon the ajarans.
    IMO too bad while russia was ‘liberating’ south ossetia, and abkhazia, from georgian ethnic cleansing, they didn’t continue on and liberate the former autonomous region of ajara from georgian hands.

  5. bstr says:

    To quote a historian “Bloody Kansas” is an example of its shortcomings.

  6. Patrick Lang says:

    Just so. The English flag with the red cross of St. George and St. George himself himself were introduced to England during the crusades. pl

  7. St. George came up here over a year ago, and Col. Lang was kind enough to publish my research notes on the patron saint of my father’s village in Lebanon:
    The font is funny – use your “increase text size” command to read it.

  8. Mad Dogs says:

    I’ve got Ukraine, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania on my mind as well.
    And can Belarus and Kazakhstan be far behind?
    What is to stop Russia now from re-absorbing its former appendages?
    NATO? Not if they wish to keep warm during the winter.
    One of the few weaknesses of Russia is that they are currently utterly dependent on the strength of will of one individual; Putin.
    Having no serious mechanism for the orderly transfer of power (a centuries-longstanding Russian problem), they rise or fall on the shoulders of a single man.
    China, at least, still has the “Party” to fall back on.
    Putin, in apparent relatively good health, may dominate the Russian scene for the next 20 years, and it would be foolish to predict that the Russian bear would return to his cave anytime soon.
    The Russian hibernation is over and the bear is hungry.
    Wanna bet he eats?

  9. Pan says:

    I don’t see the Russians bothering to reincorporating any of their former Soviet republics. The Russian nationalists for the most part are very happy to be rid of the non-slavic burden of their former Soviet empire. And I can’t see Putin wanting to share Russia’s natural resource wealth with any of these people. A sphere of influence and weak neighbors work better than anything else. Regarding Belarus, Lukashenko has been angling to have his country rejoin Russia as a partnership of equals. Putin isn’t buying that.

  10. CP says:

    Regarding the Union Jack, the flag of St Patrick is also there and the Welsh have nothing in it.
    Stateless indeed.

  11. Keith says:

    Georgia in its present de jure boundaries, including; Ajara, Abkhazia and South Ossetia was created in the 1920s by the USSR, largely through the influence of Josef Stalin, an ethnic Georgian.
    As far as I can tell, the present borders of Georgia are fairly static back to the Kingdoms of Colchis and Iberia (thanks Wikipedia).
    Are you sure you aren’t thinking of Khrushchev, Ukraine and the Crimea?

  12. Mad Dogs says:

    Pan wrote: “I don’t see the Russians bothering to reincorporating any of their former Soviet republics. The Russian nationalists for the most part are very happy to be rid of the non-slavic burden of their former Soviet empire. And I can’t see Putin wanting to share Russia’s natural resource wealth with any of these people.”
    Let’s take a look at what you’ve wrote vis a vis my previous commentary:
    Non-slavic burden you say?
    So you are not aware of a large population of not only slavic, but a Russian slavic population in those former Soviet Republics of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania?
    Hmmm…the large Russian slavic population of those former Soviet Republic might have a bone to pick with you.
    And with respect to both Ukraine and Belarus, I hope you would not argue that a very large Russian slavic population exists in both states, since it would cause too much laughter here on SST, and heaven forbid we told that joke in those particular former Soviet Republics.
    From the CIA Fact Book:
    Estonia – Russian 25.6%
    Latvia – Russian 29.6%
    Lithuania – Russian 6.3% only
    Ukraine – Russian 17.3%
    Belarus – Russian 11.4% though with Belarusian of 81.2%, one should consider both populations to be “Russian” (for those like myself who majored in Russian Studies, one understands what “White Russia” means in the native tongue)
    So, let’s say that we’ve established that we have a large population of Russian slavic folks in the former Soviet Republics that I mentioned of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Ukraine and Belarus (don’t worry, I will get to Kazakhstan *g*).
    Now in addition to the ties of Russian slavic kinship, what else might the Russians want with places like those I’ve listed?
    Hmmm…could the Russians want ice-free access to the Atlantic via the Baltic? That seems to have been of some value to all Russian empires going back hundreds if not thousands of years. Still of value? Twould be my guess that yes is the probable answer.
    And how about Ukraine and Belarus? Lot’s of industry there and a superb agricultural base. Whyever would Russia want any of that?
    And then there is Kazakhstan. The CIA Fact Book says that about 30% of the population is Russian.
    Other than a large Russian slavic population, why on earth would Russia want to reintegrate Kazakhstan back into the fold? Again, from that CIA Fact Book:

    Kazakhstan, the largest of the former Soviet republics in territory, excluding Russia, possesses enormous fossil fuel reserves and plentiful supplies of other minerals and metals. It also has a large agricultural sector featuring livestock and grain. Kazakhstan’s industrial sector rests on the extraction and processing of these natural resources…
    …In the energy sector, the opening of the Caspian Consortium pipeline in 2001, from western Kazakhstan’s Tengiz oilfield to the Black Sea, substantially raised export capacity. In 2006 Kazakhstan completed the Atasu-Alashankou portion of an oil pipeline to China that is planned in future construction to extend from the country’s Caspian coast eastward to the Chinese border…
    …Aided by strong growth and foreign exchange earnings, Kazakhstan aspires to become a regional financial center and has created a banking system comparable to those in Central Europe.

    So, I wonder if I’ve made a point or two about the value of those former states to Russia? I sure hope so. *g*

  13. Young Boy in the Valley says:

    Dear Col. Lang:
    I would like to ask your opinion.
    As a military intelligence man, how do you read what the Russki is doing militarily in Georgia?
    There is an article at
    with information that seems to suggest that the Russki’s are preparing for serious war.
    The hardware they are moving into S. Ossetia and their troop movements into the broader Caucasus (see the article) seem far in excess of what they would need against what remains of Georgian military forces. Moreover, the digging-in that they are doing near Tbilisi, the systematic destruction of Georgian military infrastructure (assuming it hasn’t been exaggerated) together with the destruction of the rail bridge linking Tbilisi to the Black Sea (assuming the Russki’s did it) suggests that the Russki’s are expecting trouble—at least from guerrillas against a military occupation, perhaps even from a Western-assisted or –supplied counterattack.
    So what I wonder is this: what can we infer from what the Russki is actually doing about how he reads the current situation? What is his real planning framework? Is he looking at the matter narrowly in terms only of Georgia, or more broadly in terms of the whole Caucasus and the Middle East?
    There is a big disconnect between what officials say in the chancelleries and on television for the people, and what they know and say in private. This seems particularly obvious in the case of Georgia. For example in the otherwise excellent WaPo article called ‘A Two-Sided Descent into Full-Scale War’
    US Ambassador to Tbilisi, Matthew Bryza insists he knew nothing about the movements of heavy artillery and armour north towards S. Ossetia. But, Matthew, where was the CIA Station Chief? Sleeping? Cavorting with the gang in a bar in Tbilisi? Didn’t he tell you anything? “Sir, the Georgians are moving heavy armour towards the frontier.” “Doesn’t matter. Turn up the music.” “Aren’t you going to tell the Ambassador?” “Doesn’t matter. Put on the music!.” What, no CIA in Georgia?
    The point of this is that often in the decision-making centers they have more information than they admit to in public, so that they have a much clearer idea of their opponents’ moves on the chessboard and even of their opponents’ intentions than they profess in public. Hence, it is often important to infer from actual actions what the decision-makers are thinking and what the framework is for their planning.
    So the question: what does what the Russki is actually doing say about what he thinks about the situation?
    Young boy in the Valley

  14. mo says:

    The assasination of Hariri happened on the corner called the St. George in Beirut. The local legend is that that was where he slew the dragon.
    Wales has no part of the British flag because it is technically a Prinicipality.

  15. Balint Somkuti says:

    “I’ve got Ukraine, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania on my mind as well.
    And can Belarus and Kazakhstan be far behind?
    What is to stop Russia now from re-absorbing its former appendages?”
    Exactly. What’s next? Eastern Europe? EU/NATO to arms! Now!
    In this brave new 4gw/netwar/whatever world it does not neccessarily mean heavy hardware, but more spending on ACTUAL DEFENSE capabilities.
    There is a phrase in hungarian:
    Better a tank on my farm,
    Than a russian on my mum.

  16. arbogast says:

    There are two ways to view the events in Georgia, both of which, in my opinion, are accurate.
    1) Karl Rove will do just about anything to focus the Presidential campaign on foreign conflicts that he believes make his candidate look good. McCain’s, “We are all Georgians now,” is an example of Rovian grandstanding at its best. Hence, Georgia’s provocation of Russian can be seen as an attempt by the Bush Administration to elect John McCain.
    2) This is the other shoe to drop after Israel’s defeat south of the Litani. Israel is a key arms supplier and ally of Georgia. There were Israeli troops in Georgia when hostilities began. So, now we have Hezbollah in a decidedly asymmetric victory over Israel in Lebanon and Russia in a decidedly asymmetric victory over Israel in Georgia (why is Joe Liberman going to Georgia for John McCain?).
    It appears that McCain is going to become President. If that should occur, expect to witness order of magnitude increases in military violence around the world, including the use of nuclear weapons.

  17. David Habakkuk says:

    Your post is very much to the point.
    My strong impression, incidentally, is that over the past few years one has seen the flag of Saint George used very much more often in England — the Union Jack much less. Certainly, these days the cross of Saint George has far more meaning for me than the Union Jack. (And ethnically, I am half Welsh, and an eighth Scots.)
    My sense — although I have not looked seriously at the available evidence, so it is not worth very much — is that there is a lot of semi-submerged anti-Scottish feeling in England, and many English people would be all too happy to be rid of the Scots.
    Mad dogs, Pan, anonymous:
    A central problem is not forcible reincorporation of non-Slavic territories by Russia. On this I think Pan is right.
    A very great danger lies in the Ukraine, all of whose population is Slavic. Here as elsewhere, the burden of history is very heavy. Just look, for example, at events in Lviv in the West Ukraine in the Thirties and Forties. In the interwar period, when the area was incorporated in Poland, Ukrainian nationalists belonging to the OUN used to murder Polish officials.
    When the Soviets moved in following the Nazi-Soviet Pact, members of the Polish elite were deported to Kazakhstan. When they retreated, they massacred more than two thousand unarmed Ukrainian nationalists. After the Germans moved in, ‘OUN police and militiamen raped Polish and Jewish women with impunity; Polish professors were rounded up, beaten, then executed; and Ukrainian nationalist extremists assisted in the mass executions of Jews near the gasworks on the outskirts of town.’
    I quote from Christopher Simpson’s 1988 study Blowback, one of a group of works which have investigated the exploitation of anti-Soviet nationalist groups by the U.S. and the U.K. in the early Cold War years. Anti-Soviet partisans in the Ukraine, incidentally, were still fighting through to 1952.
    It is not actually terribly surprising that Ukrainian nationalists looked to Germany for support — any more than that Estonian or Latvian ones did. But to try to superimpose upon the complicated divisions within the Ukraine a kind of Orwellian ‘four legs good, two legs bad’ version in which virtuous ‘orange revolutionaries’ battle against ‘hardliners’ is not only silly, but plain dangerous.
    In seeking build the foundations of a Ukrainian identity, the West Ukrainian nationalists have been attempting to capitalise on the catastrophic famine unleashed by collectivisation in the East Ukraine — portraying this as a genocide by Russians against Ukrainians. This is, to put it mildly, a dangerous game.
    (On this, a piece by Gordon Hahn on the site Russia: Other Points of View site is useful. See
    Some remarks from the veteran Russian liberal journalist Sergei Roy may bring out the dangerousness of the situation.
    ‘My own Uncle Peter died in the battle of Kiev in 1941, and now President Yushchenko is awarding medals to faithful servants of the Nazis only because they were also anti-Soviet, for which read anti-Russian. Someone should certainly reread the Nuremberg trial materials, which state in no uncertain terms that the Nazis were criminals, they have been treated accordingly – and must still be treated in the same way. Instead, Ukrainian Russia-haters rewrite history – and literature, too: Gogol is being translated into Ukrainian, with the word “Ukrainian” shamelessly substituted for Gogol’s “Russian.”
    ‘Sure, I get a bit hot under the collar whenever I start on these sort of subjects – the discrepancy between what one reads in the pundits’ analyses and what one sees with one’s own naked eyes is too much to stomach. Right where I sit in my study on the second floor of my dacha, I can see a hut that a chap from Ukraine has built for himself and other guys who do odd jobs around the local dachas, my own included. There is a lot of construction going on here, other dachas springing up all around us on empty lots. He has been coming here every summer for 13 years, he says, and has been earning enough for his family to lead a comfortable existence back in Odessa all the year round. He has even bought himself a big van – something that I could never afford. And it is an open secret that he has never paid a red cent in Russian or any other taxes. More than that, as he knows his way around here, he exploits other illegal migrants, mostly Tajiks and Moldavians (he himself is Russian).
    ‘This is how life in the raw is lived around here, and you can be sure that this guy Victor would be definitely against Ukraine’s accession to NATO – if he ever bothered his head about such abstruse things. I am afraid he will have to, sooner or later – when all of a sudden he discovers that he requires a visa to drive his van along a route that he used to drive along without noticing the borders much. Because to him it was still one country.’
    (See http://guardian-psj.ru/editors-column-article-16.)
    It is also, I suggest, a game that Ukrainian nationalists think they can safely play — because, like the Georgian counterparts, they are under the delusion that they will have effective Western support if things turn ugly.

  18. arbogast says:

    Fred Hiatt’s whining complaint against Russia in today’s Washington Post, in my opinion, offers ironclad proof that the entire charade in Georgia is another real estate deal originating in AIPAC, a real estate deal gone very, very bad.

  19. Patrick Lang says:

    I think the Russians used this size force because they subscribe to the “Powell Doctrine.” The idea in that is to use enought force so that the outcome is never in doubt and your adversary is thoroughly intimidated. This usually results in a quick outcome with fewer casualties.
    They will leave Georgia proper when they have made their point which is that they are the big dog in the neighborhood. pl

  20. Clifford Kiracofe says:

    1. Michael Dobbs take at Washington Post:
    “Unlike most of the armchair generals now posing as experts on the Caucasus, I have actually visited Tskhinvali, a sleepy provincial town in the shadow of the mountains that rise along Russia’s southern border. I was there in March 1991, shortly after the city was occupied by Georgian militia units loyal to Zviad Gamsakhurdia, the first freely elected leader of Georgia in seven decades….It soon became clear to me that the Ossetians viewed Georgians in much the same way that Georgians view Russians: as aggressive bullies bent on taking away their independence. “We are much more worried by Georgian imperialism than Russian imperialism,” an Ossetian leader, Gerasim Khugaev, told me then. “It is closer to us, and we feel its pressure all the time.”
    2. A Russian timeline:
    3. Patrick Seale’s take on consequences:
    “The Georgian crisis thus serves to illuminate the loss of political, military, and moral authority the United States has suffered under the Bush presidency….The world is not back to the icy confrontation of the Cold War, but the last couple of weeks have seen a shift in the international balance of power. Flush with revenues from oil and gas, sitting on vast foreign exchange reserves, its armed services and its self-confidence rebuilt by Vladimir Putin over the past eight years, Russia is now a major player in a highly competitive multi-polar world. Many an international relationship will need to be adjusted to match the new reality.”

  21. Mad Dogs says:

    David Habakkuk wrote – “Mad dogs, Pan, anonymous:
    A central problem is not forcible reincorporation of non-Slavic territories by Russia. On this I think Pan is right.”

    I would make one small response to this in that I did not specify “forcible” reincorporation.
    Yes, I deliberately left the method open to interpretation, but in truth, I would not exclude it nor would I insist upon it as the main/only/likely method of the reattachment of Russia’s former appendages.
    My point wasn’t so much about the method of reattachment, but more about Russia’s desire to again become the empire she once was.
    It did not dissipate as the Marxist/Leninist ideology was shown the door.

  22. Young Boy in the Valley says:

    Point taken, Colonel.
    However, having won the war they are still doing things–even now–that seem far in excess of what they need for a peacekeeping force: moving (now, not before) SS-21’s into S. Ossetia, digging machine-gun nests close to the capital of Georgia, moving more troops into the Russian Caucasus, flying cruise-missile-capable Bear bombers over the Black Sea. Psychological warfare? Or is there more to it?

  23. Bill W, NH, USA says:

    “German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Sunday in the Georgian capital that the ex-Soviet republic, currently mired in conflict with Russia, will join NATO.
    “Georgia will become a member of NATO if it wants to — and it does want to,” she said before talks with President Mikheil Saakashvili in Tbilisi.”
    above from AFP
    I’m flabbergasted at this.

  24. Curious says:

    I can’t decide if what happens in Georgia is some silly skirmish fueled by a dictator wannabe trying to win election through fanning nationalism fever or is a sign of incoming big global geopolitical shift.
    The cascade is obvious. Condi and Russia will do a tit for a tat moves. Georgia, Poland missile defense, followed by Russia enlarging it’s navy commitment and arming various nation (Syria, Iran, Venezuela, etc).. then ultimately little arm race (missile defense, counter missile defense, more advance space technology and delivery… etc. Ultimately ever expanding space asset and large satellite networks.)
    in other words, the tit for a tat looks like just another day in big power military/geopolitical game.
    Until I saw the Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac holding. China and Russia hold nearly $900B of housing bonds. Their combined forex reserve is $2.2T.
    So suppose Condi initiate the Zimbabwe/Iran gambit against Russia. (Is State Dept. has “how to become utterly predictable and lost all war” manual?)
    Certainly Russia is thinking ahead when it comes to this part of the game. They had the entire 90’s for a lesson what it means not owning proper macroeconomic policy. So they will come prepared. (To some degree their Gasprom strategy is an answer to this situation and it work very well.)
    Our twin budget deficit however is different story. The entire thing is not sustainable. If Russia start doing a combination move: arming Iran/Syria, afghan insurgency+Iraq, then at the same time selling arm to entire latin america on the cheap, drug war PLUS dumping their US holding….
    We are in for a LOT of pain in the next 2 decades. Quite possibly prolonged depression.
    Suppose the Russian pulls the Chenchya gambit on us. They start arming Columbian and Mexican drug lord with high power weapons and high explosive. (eg. oil pipe explosion, border war during drug smuggling, attack on oil terminals ala Nigeria, etc)
    It will easily eats up 1-2% GDP, specially with constitutional structure not allowing US military to operate inside US. (eg. imagine 80’s inner city gang war using RPG and thermobaric weapons instead of automatic machine gun.) The entire police force can easily be wiped out within months. (The mexican drug lords are winning their little township war against Mexico’s government)
    A tit for a tat game will collapse urban economy for sure. Even without silly scenario above, California and NY state budget are already in deep doo doo.
    I think there is something more about Georgian conflict. It asks basic question: if we continue current path as dictated by neocon. Can the US economy afford it without rethinking of larger policy and strategy.
    I really don’t think it’s sustainable if there is no major rethinking.

  25. Patrick Lang says:

    You don’t know how to spell my name? pl

  26. Chalmers Johnson also published a book by the name “Blowback” in 2000. Yet to determine whether the Georgia “crisis” is representative of blowback but we do now know CIA balkan intrigues have typically failed long term US interests. Events in the South Caucaus region may be the same performance redue.

  27. Clifford Kiracofe says:

    Interview 16 August with Shevardnadze who says:
    “I cannot say that Russia today initiates another cold war. But the fact that radars are being installed in the Czech Republic and Poland is a sign of a new cold war. Radars are similar to nuclear weapons. Russia is fully able to create similar weapons. Today we see all the symptoms of a new cold war,Americans now have started to put these radars on European territory. I cannot understand it…. I just cannot understand their motives. I’m not young and I am a very experienced politician and when I make analysis of their behavior, I cannot see any logical reason why they need this now…Russia is being forced to go back to soviet times. And we are one of those who’s forced them to do it. When we went with our forces to Tskhinvali, why was it necessary to do it now? I don t see any reason why we had to do it now. But what’s happened, you can’t change, and a mistake is a mistake…
    Georgia is a civilised country, but in its history there were times when it had to sell its children on the Istanbul markets – they were then taken to Egypt. And it was not only boys, but girls too. Their mothers tried to convince them how sweet their lives would be there.
    When the Russians came, they banned this slavery. And I can’t but say this – that the Russians actually saved Georgia. Why is it, that today America is the only country who has influence on Georgian politics? Do they really need to put us at war with Ossetia? It’s logically not right. It was our leaders’ decision to do all this aggression. It was exclusively the decision of the Georgian state. And I believe we made a mistake, a very serious mistake.” …

  28. Curious says:

    My peace plan if I were a Georgian dictator …
    “The Las Vegas in Caucasus strategy” (or … be glad I am not a ruler of any country. heh.)
    1. Sign Peace Treaty with Russia. They can keep abkhazia and South Ossetia if they want. (big effing deal, get it back later)
    2. Offer Russia alternate naval port to Ukraine. Lease on the cheap. (99 yrs?) (but they have to build a new one) Plus they can lease one air force base. (40 yrs? 60 yrs?)
    3. Restore Georgia proper boundary. (In addition to treaty on immigration, open trade, citizenship, military protocols, etc)
    4. Georgia will not seek NATO entry.
    4. In exchange to all that
    Russia must give Georgia absolute guarantee of peace and independence.
    Treaty with the US
    1. wanna free 99 yrs airforce base lease in Georgia?
    2. In exchange: sign a 200yrs banking treaty. (with “no fucking around with our banking system clause”. This is the money shot.)
    With the two superpowers taken care by way of equilibrium, next task for Georgia would be fixing the economy.
    Generally, Georgia geopolitical strategy will be a mix between Las Vegas and Swiss. (everybody is a whore and needs money, so let’s make money out of it. All of their neighbors are tightwad dictatorships. No fun.)
    The Attack everybody “Israel” model is dubious and will only lead to total destruction of Georgia. Endless fighting with Russia pushed by wimp of DC politics.
    Georgia task:
    1. Restore energy transit income
    2. generate income from the two competing super power military bases
    3. income from up keeping, supplying those bases
    4. Make the entire country free trade zone. 0% tax on goods trade. (The Singapore model) Goods trading between Russia, Iran, Turkey with western finance? seriously. That should destroy abkhazia and south ossetia economy and reverse money flow.
    5. income from property management, rental and running things. (see above)
    6. The banking treaty. (Swiss in caucasus) Banking interface between US and Iran alone will drown Georgia with money in no time. (But Georgia would really need that banking treaty.)
    7. The rest is Casinos and entertainment industry. (Macau model)
    Since every super rich, corrupt, evil and most degenerate guys in the world need to transfer money freely. They will protect Georgia from any harm for decades to come.
    They can buy Abkhazia and South Ossetia piece by piece later.
    They should have learned from the best in the small country business: Switzerland, Singapore, HongKong, Monaco or Liechtenstein even…
    Going to war with Russia is stupid, it doesn’t even make money in the long run. Who advice those georgians anyway? jeebus…

  29. David Habakkuk says:

    Clifford Kiracofe,
    There is an interesting article dealing in particular with Abhazia on the openDemocracy website — the author, George Hewitt, is Professor of Caucasian Languages at the School of Oriental and African Studies here in London, and a Fellow of the British Academy.
    It begins:
    ‘On the second full day of the Georgia-Russia war of 8-12 August 2008, Russian patrol-boats operating off the Black Sea shore of Abkhazia sank four Georgian vessels apparently intent on landing in the territory. The identity of these vessels is not yet clear, but it is interesting to note that a published list of military equipment in the possession of the Georgian government – equipment largely supplied over many years by Tbilisi’s western friends – includes a ship called the General Mazniashvili.
    ‘Why interesting? Because General Mazniashvili (aka Mazniev) is best known for his role in spreading “fire and sword” through Abkhazia and South Ossetia on behalf of Georgia’s Menshevik government of 1918-21. The naming of the ship is a revealing indicator of current official Georgian sentiment about a figure central to the pitiless effort ninety years ago to establish control over these two areas. It is also a reminder to Abkhazians and South Ossetians that their hard-won freedom from Georgian rule in the brutal wars of the early 1990s is part of a longer history of defence of their integrity that deserves the world’s attention, understanding and respect.
    ‘These peoples, and not just the Georgians – or Russians, or Americans, or anyone else involved in the latest war in the region – have their own history, many of whose artefacts have been deliberately pulverised in this generation (see Thomas de Waal, “Abkhazia’s archive: fire of war, ashes of history” [20 October 2006]). The lesson of the short war of August 2008 is that their Abkhazian and South Ossetian voices must be heard and their own choices must be included in any decisions about their future if the cycle of conflict – of which 1918-21 and 1991-93 are but two episodes – is going to be broken rather than repeated.’
    (See http://www.opendemocracy.net/article/abkhazia-and-south-ossetia-heart-of-conflict-key-to-solution.)

  30. Clifford Kiracofe says:

    David Habbakuk,
    Thanks for the extremely interesting piece by Prof. Hewitt.
    1. I did find a reference to the Harriman manganese mines in Georgia. The Harriman project failed. The Harriman interests were linked to London via Brown Bros Harriman and its relationship with Lazard Freres. Lazard, I believe it was, tried to buy up lead mines in Franco’s Spain in the late 1930s…conveniently prior to WWII. This caused something of a scandal at the time. The Harriman family, like the Bush family, have been members of the elite Yale final club, Skull and Bones. And I seem to recall the Walker family (the “W”) partnered with the Harriman interests on Wall Street. So W’s Georgia policy isn’t so out of line for certain interests perhaps:
    “William Averell Harriman, U. S. financier who has been cruising about central and eastern Europe the last few years seeking opportunities for investing his money, last week clinched control of all manganese ore mined in the Soviet Union. Two years ago the Soviet gave him a concession to mine manganese, invaluable ore for toughening steel, in the Caucasus Mountains, between the Black and the Caspian Seas.” TIME Magazine 1927
    2. Note Condi the Neocon wannabee’s most intemperate language:
    “”We have to deny Russian strategic objectives, which are clearly to undermine Georgia’s democracy, to use its military capability to damage and in some cases destroy Georgian infrastructure and to try and weaken the Georgian state,” she said.
    “We are determined to deny them their strategic objective,” Rice told reporters aboard her plane, adding that any attempt to recreate the Cold War by drawing a “new line” through Europe and intimidating former Soviet republics and ex-satellite states into submission would fail.
    “We are not going to allow Russia to draw a new line at those states that are not yet integrated into the trans-Atlantic structures,” she said, referring to Georgia and Ukraine, which have not yet joined NATO or the European Union but would like to.”
    Condi’s language is consistent with Brzezinski’s narcissistic geopolitical vision as expressed in his “Grand Chessboard” which vision was implemented by Madeleine Albright during the Clinton era and has persisted through Bush43. Condi was a student of Albright’s father, Joseph Korbel a shady and opportunist Czech diplomat in the Benes entourage in London. As I recall, Condi’s dissertation was on the Czech military and its relationship to the Soviet military. Thus her present simplistic and irrelevant analogies to 1968.
    “Trans-Atlantic structures” sounds rather dated/Cold War and Bilderberg-ish. The delusional US foreign policy elite has not been able to bring itself to adjust to the emerging multipolar world and the new balance of power (“correlation of forces”).

  31. J says:

    UNObserver & International Report
    Andrei Fedorovski: Conflict in South Ossetia; Another Side of the Coin
    2008-08-18 | Due to the fact that today’s major international press is prejudiced, there is a huge lack of information.
    History of South Ossetian conflict, since 1990 *
    September 20, 1990:
    South Ossetia announces its independence and national sovereignty.
    December 10, 1990:
    South Ossetia’s democratic elections have been held, which the Georgian minority have boycotted. Subsequently, a Georgian invasion followed, along with the brutal shooting of civilians. South Ossetia eventually maintained its territorial integrity because of the civil war that broke out in Georgia.
    January 19, 1992:
    South Ossetians were questioned:
    “1. Do you agree with South Ossetia’s independence?
    “2. Do you agree with the announcement, that South Ossetia will become a member of the Russian Federation, as of September 20, 1991?”
    This was voted democratically and more than 98 percent said Yes.
    July 14, 1992:
    Russian peacekeepers came into South Ossetia on a peacekeeping mission, on the grounds of the Dagomysskie Soglasheniya. However, ever since South Ossetia became an autonomic republic, its independence was not recognized by any member of the United Nations.
    August 8, 2008:
    With moral and material support from the West, Mikheil Saakashvili starts a war with the brutal invasion of Tskhinvali, South Ossetia.
    Another Side of the Coin
    The major international media remain suspiciously silent about the illegitimacy of Georgia’s invasion, just a day before the start of the Olympic games in China! We weren’t told how Georgia’s artillery rained destruction on South Ossetia. It is this horrifying act that was the onset to the whole conflict.
    Instead, the BBC shows us Mikheil Saakashvili asking the West for support and accusing Russia as the aggressor, while he is in fact responsible for the whole escalation of this conflict; it was under his command that Russian peacekeepers and two thousand South Ossetian citizens were shot while defending themselves. Based on the right of self-defense, the Russian military response in both South Ossetia and Georgia seems very natural. As PM Mr. Vladimir Putin announced earlier, Russia’s invasion is legal and can be justified.
    The brutal invasion by Georgia, shooting of civilians and completely vanishing Tskhinvali (the capital of South Ossetia) from the map are barbaric acts and may be considered as genocide, that will probably have devastating consequences for peace in the Caucasus. These crimes are a violation of International Law and should be prosecuted in The Hague.
    Nevertheless, thanks to all the speculations in the media regarding Russia, she remains the bête noire of the West, as she has always been before. Therefore, I do not believe, according to the media view, that by negotiations, South Ossetia will easily reach peace with Georgia. Nor do I believe that they can somehow bring humiliated Russia Justice. We get to see only one side of the coin.
    Starting a war with the brutal invasion of Tskhinvali gains Mikheil Saakashvili publicity and moral support from the West. In the meantime, all major international media are being reticent about the Georgian’s atrocity against the country, which they claim to be their own. It is more than obvious, now, that there is no support at all for Russia in this matter – even if there ever was. Nevertheless, hypocrisy is particularly wicked for the South Ossetian and Russian people, killed by this war – in fact for all the victims of Sakaashvili’s War.
    Andrei Fedorovski
    LINK to translated version:
    Website in Russian:
    Please also see:
    US, Allies Contemplating Action Against Russia
    Georgians Fired Russia’s Peacekeepers Point-Blank
    Sky News lies: Tskhinvali ruins used to smear Russians
    (Original Footage used above) “The crimes of georgian’s army in S. Ossetia.”
    UN seeking nearly $59 million to aid Georgian conflict victims
    Hospitals inundated by South Ossetian victims
    UNHCR launching emergency humanitarian airlift in response to South Ossetia displacement http://www.unobserver.com/index.php?pagina=layout4.php&id=5043&blz=1
    South Ossetia: Saakashvili accepts ceasefire terms
    South Ossetia: Politics, Diplomacy and War

  32. Michael Torpey says:

    Vlad “The Impaler” Putin (rhymes with Rasputin) is the Tzar of all the Russia’s and he is the enemy of the United States. So is China and the President of the United States for the last seven years has been borrowing from both until the US is a debtor nation. No amount of bluster is going to shake up Vlad and his puppet Dimitri (Whatever, talk to the hand) Medvedev. Like China they are too big to bully and too cynical to be charmed. We have to work with them. My plan is simple. Our national policy should be to be the great manufacturing nation we are. 100% literacy and full employment in retooled 21st century factories. Factories are the only things that creates wealth (see China). War is bad for trade. Russia will have it’s day in the sun until the oil runs out and then they will be again a hungry bear with nuclear claws.

  33. Clifford Kiracofe says:

    Query to ALL,
    The Russian Foreign minister today seemed to indicate in a televised news conference that the Georgian side signed a DIFFERENT document than the one Russia signed with the original Sarkozy/EU mediation. Lavrov spoke in Russian and there was an English language overlay in the transmission I watched. I am not sure how accurate the translation was on this specific point.
    Does this mean that the US side via Condi Rice provided the Georgian side with a different and ALTERED document to sign that substantively modified the ORIGINAL document signed by Russia in the Sarkozy/EU mediation?
    Are there now TWO DOCUMENTS in circulation that are worded differently? Neither document apparently has been signed by BOTH sides.
    The Russian side has repeatedly cited the “6 Points” of the ORIGINAL Sarkozy mediation.
    Can anyone clarify this? Perhaps one of the European SST readers not subjected to the present intense US censorship/propaganda bubble could explain?

  34. TomB says:

    David, Clifford:
    I see your points regarding how Georgia blundered and Bush and Condi are blundering still and etc. But I wonder what you guys would see as a smart U.S. and/or Western policy would be vis a vis Russia, especially as regards any revanchist moves on its part.

  35. Clifford Kiracofe says:

    For a discussion of Russian and Georgian “military art” see this interesting analysis:
    ….”While the limited value of the US military assistance did not seem to lower Georgian confidence, the second factor of under-estimating the Russian response was rooted in Georgia’s mistaken threat perception. Specifically, Georgia’s strategic assessment, reflected in its three guiding plans, the National Security Concept, National Threat Assessment and National Military Strategy, each disregarded any direct threat from Russia, stating that there was “little possibility of open military aggression against Georgia”, and defining “the probability of direct aggression” against Georgia as “relatively low”.
    “And perhaps most importantly, the actual state of readiness of the Georgian armed forces suggests that although the Georgian offensive may have been more than adequate against local forces in South Ossetia, they faced insurmountable challenges when confronted by a much more combat-capable and over-powering Russian force.
    Thus, Georgian deficiencies from not being able to wage or defend against large-scale combat operations involving a major armed force, lacking any combined-arms experience or training, and from having insufficient logistical support and inadequate air defenses, combined to doom Georgia’s operational goals in South Ossetia from the very start.” http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Central_Asia/JH20Ag01.html
    The short answer is the United States should drop the neo-Mackinder geopolitical fantasies and the aping of 19th century British “Great Games” in Eurasia, as expressed, for instance, in Brzezinski’s “Chessboard” book. As a realist, IMO this requires an adjustment to the emerging multipolar environment and dropping the Jacobin/Utopian/Neocon “unipolar”/imperial mindset and foreign policy.
    We can endeavor to adjust our differences with Russia through diplomacy. We need what my old realist professor of US diplomatic history, Norman Graebner [see his Ideas and Diploamcy] called an “analytical policy” as opposed to an “ideological” policy.
    The United States had excellent relations with Russia in the 19th century. I do not recall any US concern about Russia’s policy in the Caucasus at that time.
    As a Virginian, I note that our tobacco was shipped to Russia in the 1690s under an imperial ukase of Peter the Great. When I visited St. Petersburg and went up the Neva to see his Summer Palace, I recalled that there were more ships there from the US than from any other country trading with Russia in the years prior to 1812. Yes there were problems in the Soviet period but the FBI had the domestic situation well under control, we were allies in WWII, and we managed to keep the Cold War within reasonable limits of violence.
    I have a technical article on national strategy entitled “Selective Engagement” Chapter 2 in James J. Henz,ed., The Obligation of Empire. United States’ Grand Strategy for a New Century (Lexington, KY: University of Kentucky Press, 2004), pp. 33-52.
    Precisely what do you mean by the slogan “revanchism”? If you mean Russia taking Alaska back by force, well yes I would be concerned and oppose that. But what do you mean by the term “revanchist”, what vital US national interests are you talking about, and what is your threat perception?

  36. Patrick Lang says:

    I would have to say that the Russian troops I saw on the TeeVee were a nasty collection of sad sacks.
    Annnnd, the black smoke from the exhausts indicaes that the engines in their vehicles are as poor in quality as ever. pl

  37. Clifford Kiracofe says:

    The sad sacks have Condi in hysterics and possibly overcome by the black smoke.
    Hard to find much technical and professional military analysis from authoritative sources online so far. Hopefully more will emerge, particularly with respect to the Israeli role.
    Jane’s Defense Weekly’s initial take of 13 August which avoids the Israeli issue:
    …”The Russian incursion into Georgian territory – and the air campaign against Georgian military targets — show a confident Russian military. This is not the degraded Russian military of the 1994-1996 Chechen War, when Russian fighting units were plagued by corruption, poor leadership and lack of funding. Since launching a second war in the North Caucasus in 1999, the Russian military has gained significant combat experience, through an often brutal pacification campaign. The breakaway republic of Chechnya – just over the border from Georgia — has now reached a level of relative stability.
    Hodge concluded, “Clearly, the Russian military is still capable of launching complex, combined arms operations. Its leaders have apparently studied the NATO air campaign over Kosovo and Operation Iraqi Freedom. In addition to targeting Georgian military sites, Russia has struck civilian communications infrastructure and airports and has staged an effective media campaign. Russia has apparently unleashed cyber warfare on Georgia, although it is unclear whether this has government backing or not. ‘Denial of service’ attacks have been staged on Georgian servers, and Georgian government sites have been repeatedly hacked.”

  38. Mark Logan says:

    Ah, the cyber war..
    That may have been all too
    easy. An interesting tale
    “How I became a soldier in the Georgia-Russia cyber war”

  39. TomB says:

    Clifford Kiracofe wrote:
    “Precisely what do you mean by the slogan “revanchism”? If you mean Russia taking Alaska back by force, well yes I would be concerned and oppose that. But what do you mean by the term “revanchist”, what vital US national interests are you talking about, and what is your threat perception?”
    Well in posing my question to you and David I wasn’t using the term in any perjorative sense at all and was instead just wondering what you saw as being a smart approach to Russia. Obviously if Russia were to now take Ossetia as its own again that would indeed be a revanchist act, which says nothing as to whether same would be justifiable, desirable, right, wrong, good, bad or etc.
    As to my thoughts on the issue of Russia in general I guess my tendencies accord with yours in the ideal in that I don’t see any great, immediate vital American interests at stake and indeed think that we’ve probably already participated in going at least a bit too far already in pressing Russia by pushing the NATO borders as far and fast as they have moved. And of course given what we did in Kosovo we must look hypocritical as hell to the Russians to be condemning them for riding to the aid of the Ossetians.
    On the other hand though revanchism and territorial aggression in Europe does have some nasty pejorative history obviously, which the U.S. hasn’t exactly been able to stay clear of despite trying. And that worries me. If, once again, Europe plunges into being a sandbox for map-redrawing thugs using force I don’t know any reason guaranteeing why it would turn out any prettier than it has in the past, or why the U.S. would be able to stay out of it this time. Indeed I suspect the circumstances are such that it would be harder for us to do so now.
    So yeah, not only would I be a bit worried if Russia tried to retake Alaska, but probably be a bit concerned if it tried to retake the Ukraine too.
    So I don’t know, and would just think we ought to proceed very, very carefully. Theoretically, the isolationists in the U.S. had a nice line of logic in the years before WWI and then in those before WWII too as to why we should be uncaring as to what was going on in Europe. But of course the theory failed to take into account lots of pragmatics.
    Thus, again, I was just hoping to hear some thinking about those kinds of specific issues that seem to be at the crux of the present-day situation with Russia. Such as, say, whether NATO should indeed accept the Ukraine into the fold, or whether NATO has already gone too far in accepting so many others in so recently and etc., etc.

  40. Clifford Kiracofe says:

    1. Seems the “White House”‘s big plans for a naval show in the Black Sea for Georgia have run into a hitch: Turkey (Montreux Convention and all that). So on top of our rerun of the “Great Game” are we now we are back to the “Eastern Question?”
    “Moreover, to send the Comfort, a destroyer or any other major naval vessel, the Bush administration would need to obtain permission from Turkey under the Montreux Convention, an international treaty that regulates naval passage in the Black Sea. So far, Turkey, which controls the Bosporus and the Dardanelles that link the Mediterranean and the Black Seas, has refused, the Pentagon officials told McClatchy.”
    2.”CRAWFORD, Texas (Reuters) – The White House Tuesday said if Russia has seized any U.S. military equipment in Georgia, Moscow must return it immediately.”
    Maybe condi can bat her eyelashes and ask “pretty please” at the next NATO meeting of sad sack diplos.
    3. Russian general points out Israeli aid to Georgia, according to Israeli press. Of course, not a word about Israeli angle in the US media bubble over America.
    “Top Russian general: Israel armed, trained Georgia forces
    “Israel supplied Georgian military forces with elite training and arms, a top Russian general was quoted as saying on Tuesday, as Russia and Georgian forces exchanged prisoners of war in a goodwill gesture.
    “Russian Deputy Chief of General Staff Col.-Gen. Anatoly Nogovitsyn said Israel had supplied arms to Georgia, delivering weapons systems including eight types of unmanned aircraft and about 100 anti-tank mines, AFP reported on Tuesday.
    “Israeli special forces also helped train Georgian military intelligence units, he said.
    “In 2007, Israeli experts trained Georgian commandos in Georgia and there were plans to supply heavy weaponry, electronic weapons, tanks and other arms at a later date, but the deal didn’t work out,” Israeli media quoted Nogovitsyn as saying.” http://haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1013100.html
    4. Speaking of Ivan, OT but interesting article per Soviet era spy “Zephyr” (Mikhail Mukasei) who just died at 101.:
    “Earlier, during World War Two, under the cover of the Soviet vice-consul in Los Angeles, Mukasei gathered “highly valued” information linked to Japan’s wartime threat to the Soviet Union, the SVR said.”

  41. David Habakkuk says:

    Map redrawing is to some degree inevitable. I very much hope that this does not come to include the Ukraine. If it did, however, the likely scenario is not one in which the Russians attempt to absorb the whole Ukraine. It is one in which the inhabitants of the Crimea (only part of the Ukraine because of Khrushchev’s ukaz of 1954) decide they do not want to be in the same state as West Ukrainian nationalists who traditionally look to Germany and many of whom collaborated with the Germans in 1939-45.
    At that point the Eastern and Central Ukraine might fragment extremely unpleasantly — and the Russians get drawn in.
    We really do need — both in the U.S. and Britain — to get away from the basic assumption to which Colonel Lang points: that it is a normal condition for the territorial boundaries of ‘states’ to be coterminous with those of ‘nations’, in the sense of groups sharing a common identify and common allegiances.
    This was a central theme of the anguished complaint about American policy in the Caucasus made recently by the Canadian anthropologist John Colarusso, who has been involved as a back channel diplomat between Washington and Moscow on matters do to with the area. He accused American policymakers of endorsing ‘the machinations of one of history’s great tyrants and mass murderers,’ as well as of repeating’ the errors of the mid-twentieth century of recognizing the false detritus of the British and other empires that resulted in so much strife in Africa and elsewhere.’
    (See http://circassianworld.blogspot.com/2008/08/some-thoughts-on-recent-fighting.html
    One thing that is required is to accept that sometimes old borders need to be redrawn. The likelihood of Georgia escaping Russian pressure are greater, not less, if it surrenders South Ossetia and Abkhazia — as also the prospect of Abkhazia avoiding simply becoming a Russian satellite.
    What is also required is to accept that elements of ‘dual loyalty’ are unavoidable, and that this has to be lived with. In the Ukraine, this means avoiding situations — such as the incorporation of the country into NATO — which would be liable to put the ‘Eastern’ and ‘Western’ identifications of different parts of the population into acute tension.
    Among other things, this means that the West should discourage the attempts of Ukrainian nationalists from the West Ukraine to build a national identity for the country by portraying the catastrophic famine which resulted from collectivisation as a genocide by Russians against Ukrainians. And no account should it give Ukrainian nationalists cause to be optimistic that if their rashness produces catastrophe, the West will bail them out.
    A renewal of Cold War tensions, moreover, does not promise to benefit countries like the Ukraine or Georgia — but to make life worse for them. It may be helpful to note that the long-running ethnic conflict in Northern Ireland has reached a reasonably satisfactory solution because Britain and Ireland were working together and the U.S. played a constructive role. Had Britain and Ireland been at daggers drawn, the whole place could by now very easily have been a total shambles.
    Beyond that, I think that while the United States would be wise to maintain robust military capabilities — without succumbing to fashions of one kind or another about what kinds of wars the future is likely to hold — it should be highly chary about making specific commitments and guarantees. As the world is changing in so many ways, it is better to maintain as much flexibility as one can.

  42. Clifford Kiracofe says:

    Per Ukraine and Georgia and NATO, I agreed with Amb. George Kennan a decade and more ago when he argued against NATO expansion as unnecessary and provocative. I also was opposed at the time to the “out of area” operations push for NATO; that is, remaking NATO into a US-led global imperial police force. I also opposed Madeleine’s splendid little Balkan War, it being a European matter to sort out.
    As a realist, I am focused on what is to the advantage of the United States and our 300 some million citizens. How do we perpetuate this republic and our institutions and way of life through time and space? To me this involves analysis and calculation summed up no better than in Washington’s Farewell Address. Our foreign policy elite has succumbed to Woodrow Wilsonism with more than a touch of Bonapartism. We need to get back to John Quincy Adams as Kennan said.
    The issue anent intervention is not “isolationism” (another slogan) but a cold calculation of where and when our vital national interests are involved. I do not see any VITAL national interests involved either in the Caucasus or in Ukraine.
    Back in the 1970s, Kissinger wrote of an emerging five power system: US, Europe, Russia, China, Japan. Other specialists had the same perspective. Today we can add India and Brazil as major regional powers. The game today is more complex than the simple bipolar world of the Cold War era. We need a comprehensive, systematic, and integrated national strategy combining diplomatic, economic, political, psychological, and military elements. Neo-Mackinder fantasies as expounded in Zbigs “Grand Chessboard” are not the way to go, IMO.
    Yet, note the color revolutions, Polish missile defense agreement, Ukraine, Georgia, all spelled out in Zbig’s playbook. Could this lead to another European war down the road? Who has the crystal ball?
    One professional military analyst on the Caucasus is Major C.W. Blandy, UK Defence Academy, whom I have read with interest for several years. His latest on the Caucasus was July 2008 and is interesting. Go to the second study listed at the site “Georgia and Russia”. If you have been wondering about Matt Bryza’s hysteria per “Russian Railroad troops”…

  43. J says:

    your – I would have to say that the Russian troops I saw on the TeeVee were a nasty collection of sad sacks. –
    russian soldiers are not accustomed to the level of comfort and lifestyle that nato and other military types enjoy. the russian style is more rustic. the kremlin on purpose has kept it to the – keep it as simple as possible – principle

  44. Patrick Lang says:

    J et al
    Regular soldiers who are allowed to look like bums, act like bums. The more a military force approaches the model of “real troops” as opposed to guerrillas, the more need there is to impose a discipline that prevents the degeneration of the group into an uncontrollable mob.
    Someone will raise the issues of USSF on Afghanistan and the IDF.
    -SF soldiers have to work with guerrillas. Guerrillas are not soldiers in the sense that I was speaking of above. It is useful if you are working with armed villagers or other tribals to look and act like them to somo extent.
    – The IDF? A militia army which has never fought a first rate opponent, except the Jordanians. The IDF has many disiplinary problems. pl

  45. David Habakkuk says:

    Clifford Kiracofe, TomB:
    As well as Kennan’s observations on NATO expansion, it is interesting to look back at what Reagan’s ambassador to the Soviet Union, James Matlock, wrote in an exchange on Slate with Strobe Talbott back in 1998.
    (See http://www.slate.com/id/3672/entry/24055/.)
    Among Ambassador Matlock’s observations:
    ‘The political division of Europe ended with the fall of the Iron Curtain, the reunification of Germany, and the removal of Soviet troops from Eastern Europe. It ended bloodlessly because we convinced the Soviet leaders it would be in their interest to go quietly and we would not take advantage of their departure. If you have any doubts on that point, I would suggest you ask your staff to show you the memorandum reporting Secretary Baker’s conversation with Gorbachev in early February 1990. I am not suggesting that there was anything legally binding in that conversation, but Gorbachev says in his memoirs that Baker’s argument, which included the statement that the jurisdiction of NATO would not move eastward, convinced him to agree that a united Germany could stay in NATO.’
    Note that Gorbachev made no attempt whatsoever to get the informal assurance from James Baker turned into a formal commitment. That was a mark of the degree of trust which very many Russians, including leading figures in the leadership and indeed military, had in the United States at that time — the moral authority, one might say, that the United States then had.
    What I cannot see is any concrete way in which the United States has gained by going back on this informal understanding.

  46. Curious says:

    Are there now TWO DOCUMENTS in circulation that are worded differently? Neither document apparently has been signed by BOTH sides.
    Posted by: Clifford Kiracofe | 19 August 2008 at 04:14 PM

    I read somewhere that Georgia + Condi were insisting on “fine print” Russia must pull out of georgia proper immediately and only allowed to patrol 500 meters outside Abkhazia & south Ossetia. (lost that link. have to dig back)
    at anyrate. from how european NATO react and how France does not insist Russia to get out on certain date ( they only mutter some vague term “immediately”) I think it’s quite clear that the peace documents are useless.
    It’s all up to Russia when to get out of Georgia. (And they are sticking around.)
    On the bright side. There is nothing going on in Georgia militarily. The georgian army is completely subdued and resign to give up. All the Russian is doing is rolling their tank over highways and park it in random points.) That’s it.
    I give it a week till world press forget where Georgia is.
    Next potential problem.
    Remember those humvees? well The Russians got them. Pray there is no encryption keys in there. (probably not)
    If there is one thing, the Russia is having a good time collecting whatever new weapons the Georgian bought in the past few years.
    This bring to hard reality on defending Georgia.
    Who wants to sell them weapons so they can fully defend themselves? (eg. GPS jammer, advance anti radar, high power weapons, smart bombs, advance electronic, etc)
    Without those, a basic armored/mechanized army will not withstand Russian invasion ever.
    unless somebody prepares to go Korean style standoff with Russia. (They have all the high ground and most coastal stip, btw)
    From military point of view. Georgia is in fubar situation. Either it devices itself a geopolitical stand that balance Russia and west. Or it will be annihilated.

  47. Curious says:

    Annnnd, the black smoke from the exhausts indicaes that the engines in their vehicles are as poor in quality as ever. pl
    Posted by: Patrick Lang | 19 August 2008 at 08:01 PM

    I saw that. I think Russia won’t attack Ukraine directly. But will use soft power instead. (Their domesitc politics is in total mess right now anyway)
    Looking at various military industry output stat. Russia is still several years until they start producing engine at comparable level of German tanks. (They have near zero skill at electronic engine control)
    They are nowhere near ready for serious land invasion against up to date army yet.

  48. Clifford Kiracofe says:

    <"What I cannot see is any concrete way in which the United States has gained by going back on this informal understanding.">
    David Habbakuk,
    I was at a dinner some months ago for Ambassador Matlock who gave some excellent remarks on US-Russia relations. He is a level-headed professional.
    In past times, I have been to Moscow, been to Spaso House, been briefed by our Ambassador and country team, met Yeltsin when he came to the Senate of the United States, and have met Gorbachev. I also had the opportunity to meet the late Alexander Yakovlev in Moscow where he kindly received me at his office for a lengthy discussion.
    Seems to me going back on NATO assurances has been a blow to the relationship between the two countries as Kennan warned.
    We have most certainly lost and not gained and we continue to press ahead according to Zbig’s playbook the “Grand Chessboard.”
    I cannot put too much emphasis on the dangerously superficial and reckless nature of the foreign policy elite of the US, most of all the elected politicians and political appointees. Yes, there are a few here and there with cooler heads and clearer vision but they are not dominant in terms of actual policy and its implementation. I wish the Belfer Commission well but…
    Russia as well as every other country in the world can draw, and has drawn, conclusions.
    Like Kennan, I see with foreboding the adjustments that are being made and will continue to be made by the major powers…to US disadvantage over the long term. The hegemonic narcissist with its counterproductive policy is going to be the odd man out with the blood and treasure meter running.
    I agree with your points on Ukraine. The Crimea issues should be adjusted peacefully through diplomacy. This may well entail some reversion to pre-Khrushchev boundaries.
    Will be using Prof. Hewitt’s paper as a case study in my upcoming Global Politics class, thanks for the heads up.

  49. TomB says:

    David, Clifford:
    Okay, I see where you guys are coming from generally, and here’s the problem I have given that that’s about where I always ideally came from too: As a friend who disagrees with me says, it isn’t only that people like us are increasingly looking like cranks given that long long history now simply shows that the U.S. isn’t going to chose to be less activist internationally, it’s that after awhile when something just essentially stays the same for a long enough period of time there are likely deep deep structural and other reasons that make the present situation not really much of an option at all.
    I.e., it isn’t just that things *aren’t* the way we’d like to see them, it’s that things simply *can’t* be that way anymore.
    Thus the argument is that while the U.S. maybe still *could* have avoided getting involved in WWI, by the time of WWII it was made clear it simply and absolutely couldn’t afford to not be very engaged in large-scale international doings anymore. Japan took it’s cue from Hitler and Stalin and launched Pearl Harbor, and even before that the U.S. was getting sucked into the war in Europe just via this or that need to decide who we would continue to trade with, how the globe would look with Germany dominating Europe, what Hitler’s longer-term goals were, and etc., etc.
    And I think my friend might have a point here shown even by the experience of *other* countries besides the U.S.: Look at the expansion of NATO after the collapse of the Soviets. After all, the whole raison d’etre of NATO was essentially to keep same in check, right? (Granting, as per Lord Ismay’s famous mot, that originally at least it was also to “keep Germany down.”) But what happened after the Soviets went away? Oddly enough NATO grew like Topsy, and that was with the enthusiastic agreement not just of the U.S. but of Great Britain, Germany, France, and the other original NATO members too, with nary a peep of opposition from their citizenry, I don’t recall. Amazing. And pretty obviously, it can be argued, when any country gets to be “big” enough/rich enough/sophisticated enough to have some certain level of international engagement, it simply can’t help but to try to shape the international picture, to maintain the international stability that exists that it finds conducive, and to change what it doesn’t. And this seems true even of the smaller original NATO countries.
    So I wonder if a true “realism” doesn’t by this point have to just, well … give up on ideas like Washington’s Farewell Address as simply outmoded and no longer even roughly feasible.
    For instance, to take a point one of you mentioned which further took off from something the Colonel said about nations not being states: Seems to me that while this is obvious, history also shows there’s a helluva problem with taking this too far trying to remedy it. After all, isn’t that *exactly* what Wilson tried to remedy by calling for “self-determination” being the future standard of statehood? And wasn’t that exactly what so motivated Hitler and the Germans—with considerable understanding from the rest of Europe and the U.S.—in taking back the Sudenten, and Austria, and then moving on Poland over Danzig? And Alsace/Lorraine? And then Italy taking Albania? And wasn’t some racial/cultural impetus at least somewhat at the heart of Japan trying to create their “Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere” too?
    So what happens if the international community stands idly by while all the “nation-enthused” map-changers start up again? Doesn’t history show that sooner or later it all does “come home” to damn near every country that’s “big enough/sophisticated enough/etc.” to have a certain level of international engagement?
    Again, I look not just at the U.S. and then not just at the enthusiasm of its foreign policy elites for an activist international U.S. policy, but then at the American public too which clearly has bought into this idea. And then I look at the Western Europeans too so blandly accepting a simply huge new international role in continuing and expanding NATO (even outside Europe) and participating in Afghanistan even, and now historically insular China showing a helluva lot more interest in global affairs than ever before as it gets “bigger” and more “sophisticated.”
    So, anyway, these kinds of arguments make me wonder if indeed the arguments that exist perceiving the solution to this or that international situation or crisis as lying in some grand, distant dispassion by all the countries not directly affected by same aren’t just hopeless as a practical matter, but are indeed getting simply impossible now? Like rooting for a return to horses and buggys.
    P.S. And as regards Gorbachov’s statements about promises not to expand NATO, I think you guys are failing to do what Lang always says which is evaluate the source separately. Of *course* Gorby would say that *after* NATO started expanding, wouldn’t he? (And I doubt he ever claimed it before.) After all, he’s already blamed by enough Russians for giving up their stature in the world. And how in the world would Baker have thought he had the power to speak for Germany much less NATO? He’s a smart lawyer, and after all promising that NATO would *not* expand to at least include East Germany would be tantamount to telling the Soviets that “oh yeah, of course you can re-invade it any time you want.”
    Gorby’s being more than a tad self-interested in his recollections methinks.
    Cheers again,

  50. Curious says:

    it’s that after awhile when something just essentially stays the same for a long enough period of time there are likely deep deep structural and other reasons that make the present situation not really much of an option at all.
    Posted by: TomB | 20 August 2008 at 07:06 PM

    This is the part I think that Condi doesn’t understand.
    From european point of few, Russia right now is absolute pot of gold. Their economy is growing at 6-9%, and Russia is buying a lot of stuff from europe, on top of supplying oil.
    see this reports:
    There is NO WAY the europeans are going to anger Russia. To the european, it is not business as usual with Russia. It’s business time. There is too much money between them. Business transaction is booming. (remember, we are talking about EU economy in mild recession right now.)
    Push a little harder, the european will politely tell Condi to get lost.
    Also. That missile defense complex in Poland is going to be one of the most expensive military facility in the planet. More so than Baghdad embassy. Cost over run. The Russian will make sure every single pebbles is bugged. Cost over run will be 10-20x.

  51. Curious says:

    Russia introduces draft UN resolution on Georgian crisis
    The draft says the Security Council endorses the cease-fire agreement agreed in Moscow on Aug. 12, which was sponsored by French President Nicolas Sarkozy.
    Then the draft gives a detailed account of the agreement before calling on “the parties concerned to implement the above-mentioned plan in good faith.”
    Russia’s UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin told reporters that the draft was “a verbatim reiteration” of the six principles first agreed by both Russian and French presidents, and then later supported by Georgia and its breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

  52. Clifford Kiracofe says:

    I am not sure I follow what you are saying. For example, I do not know what you mean by “activist international U.S. policy” or “international community.” But this is not so important. However, do you mean you approve the Neocon foreign policy of the Bush Administration as the appropriate example of such an “activist international” policy?
    Polling data I have seen indicates the American people do not want a bellicose foreign policy. Polling data in Europe and from around the globe indicates tremendous dissatisfaction with the US and its “leadership.” You can consult the Pew Center for such data or PIPA at University of Maryland.
    As a realist, I am concerned with what one might call the “balance of power” which raises issues of calculation and prudence in policy planning and implementation. The old Soviet(Russian)term which is similar translates to “the correlation of forces.”
    Semi-retired now, I spent a considerable part of my career on things Soviet. When I shook hands and exchanged a few words with President Yeltsin during his visit to the Senate of the United States, the Cold War ended for me at that moment. It was time to think ahead to the emerging multipolar environment.
    The Farewell Address is not an “isolationist” document. It emerges from a consideration of what the balance of power in history and the balance then current. It does not preclude use of force when necessary to defend the national interest, nor does it preclude alliances. You will recall we needed alliances such as the French alliance to defeat the British. This was one purpose of the Declaration of Independence…to secure foreign alliances. Saratoga enabled that objective.
    We have NEVER in our entire existance, from Colonial days to the present, been “isolated” from the international balance of power beginning with the founding of Jamestown, not to mention Raleigh’s Roanoke Colony of the 1580s.
    The issue is how we deal with the world around us. The answer should be thoughtfully and with prudence.
    World War I took the United States from being a debtor nation to being a creditor nation and prepared us for what was to come. I am a great admirer of General Pershing. German and Japanese designs to radically alter the balance of power in Europe and in Asia threatened our long range survival as Pearl Harbor demonstrated all too graphically to the American people. We met that challenge, handled the Cold War, and now…we are a debtor nation again. Military power rests on economic power, we are overextended; and the whole world knows it and draws conclusions.
    As I indicated, we need a comprehensive national strategy which takens into consideration elements of power such as diplomatic, economic, political, psychological, and military.
    As I also indicated, future shifts in the balance of power could well find us isolated and facing a Russia-China-Japan alignment with the EU tilting towards it or neutral. This would be considerably more grave than what we faced in WWII.

  53. J says:

    if you look at vintage footage of soviet union soldiers fighting in afghanistan, you will see that they adhered to the principle of a groomed/disciplined soldier there are less disciplinary problems with.
    modern day russian troops the closer they are to the periphery of moscow the more spit and polish, as they are observed by the russian civilian public on a regular basis. the kremlin is keenly aware of the ‘public perception’ issue.
    did you happen to catch on the tee vee the particular russian unit or units that were being shown?
    a self-disciplined soldier/sailor/airman/marine is a hard commodity to beat.

  54. Curious says:

    Belarus airspace is now free for Russian defense use. (right next to the new missile defense site)
    militarily, if Russia has super sonic drone, that shiny and expensive radar site will go up in smoke within 10 minutes after war declaration.
    Russia, Belarus To build Air Defense Against U.S. Missile Shield
    Russia and Belarus are mulling over building a common air defense system as a response to the deployment of U.S. missile defense shield in Poland and the Czech Republic.
    Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and his Belarussian counterpart Alexander Lukashenko Tuesday agreed that a treaty to this effect should be signed as early as this autumn.

  55. J says:

    don’t forget that in addition to the ‘air components’ the kremlin will put in place to ‘negate’ the dunder-headed dumber-n-dirt ‘missile shield’ (a.k.a. boonedoggle extraordinaire), the kremlin will also have tasked their vdv with sabotage ops as part of their covering all their bases/lining up all their aces. by the time the missile shield structures are finished in in place, so will the pre-positioned sabotage toys the vdv will need to negate the threat should their air options are negated by the west.
    the missile shield is a direct threat to the russian homeland, and the kremlin will pull out all stops to ensure that if/when the time erupts, it becomes a smoking hole as quickly as possible.
    don’t you just luv the stupidity of d.c. on this one? arghhh.

  56. Curious says:

    This would be funny had it not involved potential nuclear war between US-Russia.
    The Kremlin and Tbilisi have been trying to out-duel each other on who shouts the vilest of insults. Russia’s insults have been the vilest, always replete with condescension and spite. Russian leaders have called their Georgian counterparts “spoiled kids.” Did you hear Russia’s foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov dismissively declare Georgia a “virtual project of the United States?”
    On Monday, Russia’s President, Dmitry Medvedev, Putin’s poodle, launched a verbal tirade against his Georgian counterpart, Mikheil Saakashvili and his administration, calling them “political morons.”
    “The world has seen that even today, there are political morons who are ready to kill innocent and defenseless people in order to satisfy their self-serving interests….” blurted Medvedev while visiting Vladikavkaz, a military installation near the Georgian border.
    Not to be outdone, Sergei Lavrov, the foreign minister, also went for Saakashvili jugular calling his administration a “criminal regime”, during a press conference called to warn NATO to back off rearming Georgia. He was to repeat the incendiary comments in an op-ed article in the Wall Street Journal.
    In the article, Lavrov reiterated Russia’s determination to “…continue to seek to deprive the present Georgian regime of the potential and resources to do more mischief.”
    Russia’s ambassador to NATO, Dmitry Rogozin, called Saakashvili a “war criminal” and likened him to former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and ex-Serbian despot, the late Slobodan Milosevic.
    Politicians in Georgia have not been resting on their laurels, either. Saakashvili has called the Kremlin tenants “21st century barbarians.” Their soldiers are drunkards, who are poorly dressed and equipped.

  57. Patrick Lang says:

    J et al
    I read the “Le Monde” story and was taped by CNN about it this afternoon.
    It appears to me that the wounded French soldiers interviewed in Kabul said that among the fires in this engagement were those of one or more A-10s and some Afghan Army troops. The wounded said that some of that fire fell on French positions. They did not say that the casuaties were wholly or in part caused by that fire. It is very easy to have friendly fire go astray in such a situation. Too much should not be made of it. I was in the beaten zone of friendly air fires three times. No hard feelings on my part. Don’t get too worked up about this. The official statement and the account of the wounded are not mutually exclusive. pl

  58. Patrick Lang says:

    Soviet 40th Army in Afghanistan looked better than these men but they, too, had many problems that a well run force should not have.
    Their logistics were rotten. Troops often went hungry in the field. Officer/enlisted relations were terrible with many instances of refusal of orders in the field, and brutality towards junior enlisted men. Discipline was terrible. Their ammunition dumps blew up frequently not because of Mujahid action but rather becausu of indiscipline about things like smoking in the facility. pl

  59. J says:

    since the fall of the soviet union, and more public since putin assumed the position, a problem that putin has been working hard to stop — the brutalization/hazing of junior enlisted. where and when found, putin has been putting his size 26’ers right in the middle of the brutalizers and not being gentle about it.

  60. J says:

    IMO putin/medvedev did the right thing in coming to the rescue and protecting militarily the south ossetians and abkhazians from the georgians and their brutalizations. IMO georgia is too immature and has no business with grown up toys – period.

  61. Curious says:

    don’t forget that in addition to the ‘air components’ the kremlin will put in place to ‘negate’ the dunder-headed dumber-n-dirt ‘missile shield’ (a.k.a. boonedoggle extraordinaire), the kremlin will also have tasked their vdv with sabotage ops as part of their covering all their bases/lining up all their aces. by the time the missile shield structures are finished in in place, so will the pre-positioned sabotage toys the vdv will need to negate the threat should their air options are negated by the west.
    the missile shield is a direct threat to the russian homeland, and the kremlin will pull out all stops to ensure that if/when the time erupts, it becomes a smoking hole as quickly as possible.
    Posted by: J | 21 August 2008 at 12:43 PM

    You know what I would do if I were the russians?
    Build a gigantic disneyland right in front of that radar view. Firework and rocket EVERY nights.
    All sort of toy missile booms and flight paths. The radar wants plume and flight path, give it plume and flight path.
    (there goes finely calibrated instrument.)
    Maybe the Russian is going to paint a smiley face on that radar screen.

  62. John Howley says:

    Looking ahead, the next question is” Will Russia permit re-supply of Georgia’s military?”

  63. J says:

    the answer to your question is easy –nyet (no).

  64. TomB says:

    Clifford Kiracofe wrote:
    “I am not sure I follow what you are saying. For example, I do not know what you mean by ‘activist international U.S. policy’….”
    Well that’s a very interesting response to me, Professor, so thank you.
    As I said my foreign policy instincts at least have always seemed to rather closely parallel your own preferences, but that I’ve been bothered by some of the arguments that some friends and some further thinking have posed concerning same. And as a result I found myself doing exactly what I think I see in your response in terms of having to ever more qualify myself and etc.
    For instance, you say you don’t understand what I meant by having a more “activist” U.S. foreign policy. But of course you had previously written critically that “[o]ur foreign policy elite has succumbed to Woodrow Wilsonism,” which I wouldn’t have thought you would have denied is a pretty “activist” foreign policy stance.
    And you had also previously written in favor of the kind of foreign policy advocated by Washington in his Farewell Address, but while you say now that you don’t think this is an “isolationist” document I think one does have to admit it at least meets the (admittedly polemical) modern definition of same at least, no? I.e., where Washington said that we ought to “trust to temporary alliances for extraordinary emergencies” only. And then of course with Washington further identifying his central advice as being “[t]he great rule of conduct for us in regard to foreign nations is in extending our commercial relations, to have with them as little political connection as possible.”
    (Which seems about as *politically* isolationist as you can get to me at least.)
    So in short I sense from your reply the same challenges I encounter when I try to defend my instincts for a far more restrained American foreign policy. (Having to constantly adjust my own understanding of definitions so as to make them more “modern” and realistic and etc.)
    Not that there’s a whit wrong with same or that it means any criticism of you or your views whatsoever. As I said in fact that closely parallels my own experience and it’s just that for me at least it’s called into question my instincts which is why I find it so interesting, so thank you once again.

  65. David Habakkuk says:

    Clifford Kiracofe, TomB, J:
    An article in the FT by a Singaporean academic says precisely what I have long thought about Western policy towards Russia — far better than I could have put it myself. As it may be behind a subscription wall, I reproduce it in full.
    Where I would disagree is with the suggestion that ‘the real strategic choice is whether its primary challenge comes from the Islamic world or China.’ It seems to me that at the moment, given the massive uncertainties about events are going to develop, one should be keeping options open.
    In relation to both possible challenges Mahbubani mentions, however, a revived Cold War with Russia is complete strategic nonsense. A superpower which allows itself to get into such a revived Cold War because of rather bogus ‘poor little Georgia’ kitsch is going to have major problems.
    Another central point Mahbubani makes is that most countries want to work with the U.S. and west. One could put this a different way — the idea of a ‘democratic peace’ has always been nonsense, the idea of a ‘capitalist peace’ may not be so.
    The west is strategically wrong on Georgia
    By Kishore Mahbubani
    August 20, 2008 7:19:00 PM
    Sometimes small events can portend great changes. The Georgian fiasco may be one such event. It heralds the end of the post cold-war era. But it does not mark the return of any new cold war. It marks an even bigger return: the return of history.
    The post cold-war era began on a note of western triumphalism, symbolised by Francis Fukuyama’s book, The End of History. The title was audacious but it captured the western zeitgeist. History had ended with the triumph of western civilisation. The rest of the world had no choice but to capitulate to the advance of the west.
    In Georgia, Russia has loudly declared that it will no longer capitulate to the west. After two decades of humiliation Russia has decided to snap back. Before long, other forces will do the same. As a result of its overwhelming power, the west has intruded into the geopolitical spaces of other dormant countries. They are no longer dormant, especially in Asia.
    Indeed, most of the world is bemused by western moralising on Georgia. America would not tolerate Russia intruding into its geopolitical sphere in Latin America. Hence Latin Americans see American double standards clearly. So do all the Muslim commentaries that note that the US invaded Iraq illegally, too. Neither India nor China is moved to protest against Russia. It shows how isolated is the western view on Georgia: that the world should support the underdog, Georgia, against Russia. In reality, most support Russia against the bullying west. The gap between the western narrative and the rest of the world could not be greater.
    It is therefore critical for the west to learn the right lessons from Georgia. It needs to think strategically about the limited options it has. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, western thinkers assumed the west would never need to make geopolitical compromises. It could dictate terms. Now it must recognise reality. The combined western population in North America, the European Union and Australasia is 700m, about 10 per cent of the world’s population. The remaining 90 per cent have gone from being objects of world history to subjects. The Financial Times headline of August 18 2008 proclaimed: “West in united front over Georgia”. It should have read: “Rest of the world faults west on Georgia”. Why? A lack of strategic thinking.
    Mao Zedong, for all his flaws, was a great strategic thinker. He said China always had to deal with its primary contradiction and compromise with its secondary contradiction. When the Soviet Union became the primary contradiction, Mao settled with the US, even though it involved the humiliation of dealing with a power that then recognised Chiang Kai-shek as the legitimate ruler. The west must emulate Mao’s pragmatism and focus on its primary contradiction.
    Russia is not even close to becoming the primary contradiction the west faces. The real strategic choice is whether its primary challenge comes from the Islamic world or China. Since September 11 2001, the west has acted as though the Islamic world is the primary challenge. Yet rather than devise a long-term strategy to win over 1.2bn Muslims, the west has jumped into the Islamic world with no strategy. Hence there are looming failures in Afghanistan and Iraq and an even more hostile environment in the Islamic world.
    Many European thinkers are acutely aware of the folly of many US policies. But they are reluctant to confront the dangers of outsourcing their security to US power. In security, geography trumps culture. Because of geography, Europe has to worry about Islamic anger. Because of the Atlantic Ocean, the US has less reason to do so.
    In the US, leading neo-conservative thinkers see China as their primary contradiction. Yet they also support Israel with a passion, without realising this stance is a geopolitical gift to China. It guarantees the US faces a hostile Islamic universe, distracting it from focusing on China. There is no doubt China was the bigger winner of 9/11. It has stabilised its neighbourhood, while the US has been distracted.
    Western thinkers must decide where the real long-term challenge is. If it is the Islamic world, the US should stop intruding into Russia’s geopolitical space and work out a long-term engagement with China. If it is China, the US must win over Russia and the Islamic world and resolve the Israel-Palestine issue. This will enable Islamic governments to work more closely with the west in the battle against al-Qaeda.
    The biggest paradox facing the west is that it is at last possible to create a safer world order. The number of countries wanting to become “responsible stakeholders” has never been higher. Most, including China and India, want to work with the US and the west. But the absence of a long-term coherent western strategy towards the world and the inability to make geopolitical compromises are the biggest obstacles to a stable world order. Western leaders say the world is becoming a more dangerous place, yet few admit that their flawed thinking is bringing this about. Georgia illustrates the results of a lack of strategic thinking.
    The writer, dean of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy (National University of Singapore), has just published ‘The New Asian Hemisphere: the Irresistible Shift of Global Power to the East’

  66. Curious says:

    Singapore is insecure, and their main nationalism view is dictated primarily by Malaysia/Indonesia next door (huge moslem countries) and China (ethnic china). Historically, their conflicts take part in that context.
    … hence their analysis.
    But singapore is such a tiny country, their cultural and economic output is practically negligable. (whatever they say don’t count much. It’s what the crazies around them that count, regardless if what they say makes sense or not.)
    The Asian power dynamic will be more or less return to pre WWII era. Primarily driven by trade, ethnic relationship, China at the center, and scattered western interest, but now with much more money and bigger weapons.
    The basic interaction is the same.
    Islam in the far east is relatively young, late 16th century, about as old as colonialism experience. China power projection and confucianism however are several centuries older. So guess which one has deeper root.

  67. TomB says:

    That’s a very interesting article although I think you hit the nail on the head when you said that you think that because the situation is so inchoate the West should be “keeping its options open.”
    But I’d also take issue with the article’s point that somehow it’s the West that’s in a box vis a vis Russia or even elsewhere. As I wrote in another thread seems to me it’s Russia that’s just horribly foreshortened its options by way of terrifying its neighbors and so making its future relations with them ever more dependent on using power politics or even force to achieve even the most basic beneficial accords with them.
    I mean … after all, while Russia is clearly getting at least somewhat richer, it’s still not all that different from an Upper Volta with nukes. An Upper Volta surrounded by NATO forces. And just as we agree that even the Iranians would not be nuts with nukes, the utility of relying on rattling that saber for the Russians is quite limited.
    So what is *Russia’s* field of choice and issues? Seems to me fundamentally it is either to renounce the idea of forcible revanchism and become a good neighbor in its community, working on developing its economy and etc., or to become the feared and hated heavy in the neighborhood, which didn’t work so well for it even when it was the Soviet Union.
    So given all of its economic power alone the West (including now the EU which is hugely important to Russia) would seem to have lots and lots of options as to how to approach Russia, while it’s the Russians who have some very stark, limited choices facing them.
    And as to the arab world I think something of the same might apply. They can choose to modernize their economies (and this is not saying that I believe a modern economy is the be-all or end-all of things or culturally desirable), or they can kind of … endlessly stew on sectarian or nationalistic or religious disputes and allow this or that strongman or clique or claque to cheat the hell out of them.
    In short I think that the writer of the article gives too short a shrift to Fukuyama and makes what I think is an all-too-common mistake amongst many western commentators. As clearly accepted by Fukuyama and as is pretty clearly the case I think, “the West”—including the U.S.—really doesn’t face “challenges” simply from the rise of others’ economies, such as India’s or China’s. I think it’s pretty clear that capitalist economics is not a zero-sum game and that as India and China and whoever get richer it’s instead merely a much happier matter of simply increased economic *opportunities* for the West arising due to same.
    I.e., just as you didn’t see the U.S. perceiving Western Europe, or Japan, or South Korea as “challenges” when they got rich, I don’t think the West is going to perceive such things as challenges when it happens to India or China or whomever.
    It’s in the political sphere where “challenges” arise, such as what to do, for instance, if Russia was to try to take a bite out of the Ukraine, or when Saddam gobbled up Kuwait or etc. And this is not to deny that the richer a country is the bigger a challenge it can present politically.
    In that sense, it seems to me, given that of course there *are* some political boundaries that are immensely unfair or etc., the “challenge” to the West and the U.S. is to overcome their immense economic interests in the status quo and stability and find a way to allow a peaceful adjustment of those political boundaries, such as what may need to happen in Georgia.

  68. David Habakkuk says:

    Tom B,
    Your last paragraph is right. One needs to bear in mind that the current borders of Georgia are the creation of one of the most cynical and brutal practitioners of imperialist divide and rule strategies in history — Iosip Besarionis-dze Dzhughashvili, as he would have been called in his native country of Georgia.
    Hence the Ossetes ending up in two separate republics — and also the reduction of the status of Abkazia from that of a Union Republic to that of an autonomous republic within Georgia in 1931.
    Had U.S. (and British) leaders not assumed that the arbitrary diktat of one of the worst mass murderers in history should be treated as holy writ, this war need never have happened. It might also have helped if people in Washington (and London) displayed minimal awareness of the savagery of past attempts by Georgia to subjugate these regions — in 1918-21 and 1991-3.
    As it is, of course the war is bad news for Russia — but they prefer it to the prospect of ongoing encroachment, with (for example) Sevastopol becoming a U.S. navy base.
    As to the costs for the U.S. of a complete breakdown of relations with Russia, I refer you to my comment on a later thread, citing a story in today’s NYT and a very sober piece by Flynt and Hilary Mann Leverett. In particular, I would draw your attention to the remarks of the Leveretts on Europe’s energy dependence on Russia.

  69. Curious says:

    I am ready to close the Georgian case. All variables are not going anywhere.
    1. The internal Georgian politics is fairly fubar. Highly incompetent. It consists of nothing more than whining on TV asking US/Nato supply.
    2. Georgian military itself has imploded completely. what’s left probably several unit of presidential special forces and state security apparatus. There is no way they can utilize supplied equipments to fend off Russia.
    3. Russia has destroyed all Georgian essential military infrastructure. Does the Georgian army have any staging area left that is not within range of Russian artillery?
    4. with those, if one would want to defend Georgia military. it’ll be massive land invasion from scratch. Big enough to fight one russian motorized division, black sea navy and a small air force…. plus… several hundred missiles (the only one that counts in the end)
    It’ll be at least one mechanized division + solid supply from coast, and a trickle air supply.
    Moving tank division from Iraq means:
    a) Russia will enter from Syria and Iran.
    b) Iran cutting off Basra route and start bombing Kuwait with the help of Russia.
    c) automatic persian gulf shut off.
    d) they have accurate enough missile to destroy every fuel/munition dump and bombing all big ports and supply entry point.
    So 2/3 of Iraq will be lost within a month.
    5.) The Russian can see their radar screen if there is going to be big invasion or not.
    6.) Winter is coming. The Russian probably have slight advantage since all equipments from Iraq has to be adjusted to fight for different condition.
    7) larger world scene. Europe is not in the mood for a big slug fest. Domestic economy also cannot handle a big increase in military spending.

    So basically what’s left for Georgian case will be Condi’s daily freak show on TV and stalemate at the UN. Everything will fall off the headline news after another 2 weeks.
    Ukraine election is coming soon. That ought to be fun.

    tho’ trying to design a Georgian land invasion would be fun….
    I think one can take the Russian if it happens hard and fast enough. (those missile defense better be functional tho’ the Russian will lobe big missiles for real against carrier battle group and Kuwait/Iraq southern port.)

  70. J says:

    russia is now reinforcing their units that are pre-positioned in iran to include necessary air defense infrastructures.
    d.c. seems to forget that the russians are chess players, and when you couple the russian ability for chess with the inventors of chess – persians – makes for an interest game full of gambits.

  71. David Habakkuk says:

    Tom B:
    You may not have seen: the most famous contemporary Russian conductor, Valery Gergiev, turns out to be an Ossetian.
    He has just conducted a concert in Tskhinvali.
    Among the works played was the Seventh Symphony of Shostakovitch. It is called the Leningrad Symphony — as it commemorates the defence of Leningrad against the Nazis.
    There is a link to the concert on the Circassion World News Blog.
    (See http://circassianworld.blogspot.com/2008/08/world-must-know-truth-tskhinvali-is-new.html.)
    From the report on the blog:
    ‘The concert took place before the ruined building of the South Ossetian Parliament. The Mariisnky orchestra performed Dmitry Shostakovich’s Seventh (Leningrad) Symphony and Pyotr Tchaikovsky’s Sixth Symphony. Many people were holding candles in their hands.’

  72. TomB says:

    David Habakkuk wrote:
    “Tom B:
    You may not have seen: the most famous contemporary Russian conductor, Valery Gergiev, turns out to be an Ossetian.”
    Indeed I didn’t see nor know that David. Piquant as hell for the Russians, no doubt. Whatever else they got out of their little adventure, they gotta be smirking at whacking the Georgians a good one.

  73. Clifford Kiracofe says:

    David Habakkuk,
    The requiem performance was moving indeed. Gergiev toured the ruined city before the performance.
    In his tour, he visited the bombed out Jewish quarter. Apparently, all the buildings were bombed out by the Georgians. An old synagogue was damaged as it had been back the early 1990s situation. Televised news reports, which I just saw, indicate that one elderly woman in this quarter survived the recent attack but 19 others from the area are reported missing and unaccounted for. The elderly lady was photographed amidst the rubble. A rabbi from the Russian Army chaplain service visited the area and the synagogue and commented on the situation.
    The media censorship and propaganda over here remain extremely intense.
    It is good to see the Council of Europe has its Commissioner for Human Rights on the ground now. I hope his report will clarify the overall situation so the world will know the truth of the matter.
    “Strasbourg, 21.08.2008 – The Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Thomas Hammarberg, will start on Friday 22 August a fact-finding visit in the areas affected by the South Ossetia conflict. “The aim of the visit is to assess the human rights situation and the unhindered access of humanitarian assistance to the population” said the Commissioner. “In particular, I will focus on the situation of internally displaced persons and refugees, with a special regard for the perspective of their safe and voluntary return.” http://www.reliefweb.int/rw/rwb.nsf/db900SID/AMMF-

  74. Dana Jones says:

    “Western leaders say the world is becoming a more dangerous place, yet few admit that their flawed thinking is bringing this about.”
    This is the money qoute. We are creating more terrorists every day in the mid-east. Look at the recent air strike in Afganistan, where we killed 90+ civilians including 50 children.
    We attack and bomb so indiscriminately. Do we somehow expect these people to say: “Oh, so it was a big mistake? Oh, thats ok then.” Sorry, no, some people have long memories and can hold grudges long after the short-sighted West has turned to other matters. Thats when we will feel a dagger in the back.
    Courious: Don’t be so quick to write off Singapore as a “…such a tiny country, their cultural and economic output is practically negligable”, they are not, they have a very big influence in that part of the world. Lots of world banking goes through there. They may be small territorially, but the have big economic clout in S.E. Asia.

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