Let’s make a deal – NATO and Russia

Nato_russia In spite of the "jelly donut" (Berliner) talk from McCain it is probably time to discuss a methodology for avoiding similar possible flash points between the United States and Russia.

It appears to me that Russia’s behavior is largely the result of 20 years of angst over the  loss of what the Russians thought was their patrimony in the non-Russian parts of what had been the Russian Empire and then the USSR.  Central Asia, the Trans Caucasus, the Ukraine, the Crimea, the Baltics, the list is long. 

The 90s were a hard, hard time for Russians, hard emotionally and very hard in terms of the reduction in what had already been a pitifully low standard of living under the Communists.

The boom in oil money has erased a lot of the economic hardship, but the scabs are still there over wounded national pride.

The United States has done little to help those wounds heal.  Instead, we have insisted on measures like; the missile shield system in former Warsaw Pact countries.  The Russians are neither stupid nor unsophisticated.  They know that the difference between the defensive and offensive meanings of most weapons systems lie wholly in the intention of the possessor.

At the same time, we have pushed the boundaries of NATO as close to Russia’s shrunken borders as we could manage to do.  NATO was always an anti-Soviet alliance.  It was a necessary and useful thing.  Now, the Russians see NATO pushed right up to their frontiers.  Surprise!  They now see NATO as an anti-Russian alliance. Its expansion is viewed as a symbol of their continuing humiliation.

The Deal:  No expansion of NATO on the borders of Russia in return for a commitment on the part of Russia that there will be no further introduction of Russian Republic forces or "volunteers" into former parts of the USSR that are now independent.  pl


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66 Responses to Let’s make a deal – NATO and Russia

  1. A says:

    This just in from Haaretz
    U.S. puts brakes on Israeli plan for attack on Iran nuclear facilities
    By Aluf Benn, Haaretz Correspondent
    “The Americans viewed the request, which was transmitted (and rejected) at the highest level, as a sign that Israel is in the advanced stages of preparations to attack Iran. They therefore warned Israel against attacking, saying such a strike would undermine American interests. They also demanded that Israel give them prior notice if it nevertheless decided to strike Iran.

    “U.S. National Intelligence Director Mike McConnell and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mike Mullen both visited here in June and, according to the Washington Post, told senior Israeli defense officials that Iran is still far from obtaining nuclear weapons, and that an attack on Iran would undermine American interests. Therefore, they said, the U.S. would not allow Israeli planes to overfly Iraq en route to Iran.”

  2. charlottemom says:

    And then McCain opens his mouth and proclaims “We’re all Georgians now.” Helpful, very helpful

  3. knut royce says:

    You are not human, Pat. You keep making sense.

  4. zanzibar says:

    Makes too much sense, Pat 🙂
    Why should there be NATO any longer? It seems to have lived its useful shelf life.
    Why not a real alliance with Russia? A similar partnership to what we have with the EU countries and Japan. They have a lot to offer us both politically and strategically. We can both then re-orient (aka shrink) our military spending away from large strategic nuclear forces to more conventional and rapid response forces for regional threats to stability. The Russians are now less focused on ideology and for all intents and purposes part of the western “system”. We can possibly work with them on a range of natural resource, space and other projects and reduce instability in global affairs.
    Why can’t we move beyond Cold War mentality into a new era of cooperation and partnership with these guys? We need time to get our house in order and re-build. We can’t afford more bluster!

  5. jr786 says:

    I don’t quite see why a renascent Russia flush with petromoney, and with the promise of much more to come, would agree to the deal you suggest, Colonel. Now that they become capitalist they face the same geographical imperative that we have – they must expand, and the logical place for that is through the former states of the USSR and border states like Iran.
    Orwell got it right when he said the British Empire was always a money making concern. Without an ideology to export, the emerging capitalist empire of Russian will be forced to look for new markets the same way everyone else does.

  6. J says:

    NATO-OTAN has undermined its own crediblity with Russia, as NATO-OTAN reneged on their gentleman’s agreement that they made with Russia right after the dissolution of the former Soviet Union.
    It’s no wonder that Russia does not ‘trust’ NATO-OTAN let alone our forked-tongue D.C.. Both have a dismal track-record of honoring their given word.
    IMO NATO-OTAN has outlived its usefulness and needs to be disbanded, but that’s my ‘opinion’.

  7. J says:

    i like the phrase ‘we’re all ossetians’ a whole lot better.
    when you blow up a barracks with russian peacekeepers in it like the georgians did, and then proceed to bomb and shoot up unarmed south ossetian civilian enclaves and their homes, hospitals, and universities, such ‘actions’ tends to set in motion ‘paybacks’. georgia going up against russia is like an ant trying to go up against an ant-eater.

  8. Curious says:

    We are now fully inside the georgian conflict. Just waiting for a GI to get shot then officially we are at war with Russia.
    At best now we are propping Saakashvili regime with a very broken georgian economy.
    Worst. we are going to have a stand off ala South/North Korea with ever increasing troop in there.
    And the russian is going to have serious war gaming party in such mountain region.
    Then sooner or later the whole thing will spill over to Iraq by way of armenia-Iran.
    I think this will be Bush biggest legacy. Iraq will look like a minor mistake compared to re-igniting cold war.
    Mr Bush said the US was launching a “vigorous and ongoing” humanitarian mission.
    A C-17 aircraft with humanitarian supplies was already on its way to Georgia, and in the following days the US would use military aircraft and naval forces to deliver humanitarian and medical supplies, Mr Bush said.
    US Officials to Deliever Aids
    B. BBC report: Saakashvil press release that the US troop in Georgia is a turning point and that they will control the “ports and airport”. Immediately US GOV. countered this message from Saakashvil that it will not take over ports and airports at all, just deliver aid. Then Saakashvil reinterates his statement. Watch out for this guy.

  9. Duncan Kinder says:

    Dmitry Orlov in Reinventing Collapse asserts that today’s United States is on the verge of collapse much as the Soviet Union had been in the 1980’s.
    Dmitry Orlov was born in Leningrad and immigrated to the United States at the age of 12. He was an eyewitness to the Soviet collapse over several extended visits to his Russian homeland between the late eighties and mid-nineties
    To the extent that, like Orlov, other Russians view the United States as an overstated empire on the verge of a Soviet-style collapse, then they are apt to view NATO expansion as more of a tactical problem than as a strategic threat.
    If so, they might agree to Col.Lang’s deal, but only as a palliative – so they could consolidate their present position and prepare for future events.

  10. Yohan says:

    The next president needs to end the useless, expensive, and needlessly provocative missile defense “shield.” It will never be robust enough to stop a Russian strike, it will just prompt the Russians to build more missiles. We need to allow their stockpile to degrade naturally over time, not provoke them into modernizing it.
    The thing has always been a pipedream and Clinton should have ended it when he had the chance.

  11. b says:

    A German (my more or less informed) voice:
    – we don’t need NATO. It is by now a tool for U.S. imperialism and no longer in any (western) European interest
    – we can set up a European (Carolingian plus boarder countries) common defense based on respect of sovereignty (Westphalian Peace – didn’t we learn the very bloody lessons that led to that?) and common defense against real physical threats
    – we will align with those who allow us mutual vital profitable relations (like Russia currently does)
    – we may align with those who offer us mutual conditional profitable relations (China, U.S., etc.)
    – we will be annoyed and may work against those who don’t fit the above
    – we will fight economically and cultural (NOT militarily) against those who try to counter the above principles
    – you really want to screw us? Take that (nuke).
    That is the European constellation that is evolving right now. Vote McCain and that is what you will get within 4 years, vote Obama and you will get it within 8 years.

  12. Mike says:

    “The Deal: No expansion of NATO on the borders of Russia in return for a commitment on the part of Russia that there will be no further introduction of Russian Republic forces or “volunteers” into former parts of the USSR that are now independent.” – so pl
    Sensible and obvious surely. Perhaps the only positive course of action that could give the US a sense that it has some power to influence and control the Russians. But is the present administration capable of imagining and proposing such a deal? Would it not interpret any such proposals as nothing more than “appeasement”. Far preferable to shout and bluster great (and utterly empty) threats of the dire (and indefinable) consequences that (they wish to imagine)will cascade crushingly down upon the hapless Russians? Shakespeare nicely summarised the words of President Bush and Secretary Gates: “a tale, told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing” (the Scotch play) and “I will have such revenges on you…..that all the world shall – I will do such things, – what they are I yet know not, – but they shall be the terrors of the earth…..” (King Lear)

  13. rj says:

    Hit the nail on the head. I thought the NATO expansion under Clinton was problematic. Under Bush it really did get in-your-face. The Russians are extremely sensitive about being treated subserviently — the American attitude of “we’ll fish in your territory and you can’t do anything about it” was going to be answered. I think NATO’s in a bind now and has to back up on its expansion, or maybe what it means to be in NATO. I have no idea how that is to happen. Putin has a lot of other ways of causing mischief in the near abroad. The problem is that Russia also has a bullying streak (the flip side of its fear of humiliation) and will likely want acceptance of some right of interference in Georgia’s affairs. Then they may start feeling the same about the Baltic states. They always seem to have a hard time finding equilibrium on these issues. Hopefully, their slam dunk on Georgia, combined with some effective diplomacy from Europe and the U.S. (yeah, right) will mollify them. Overall, they want integration in the world community. I’d end this post with the usual wailing about what Bush, Cheney and the neo-cons have wrought, but with we’ve heard so many times before and oh lord it’s old.

  14. fnord says:

    Sir, while I agree with you in principle, I think Mr. Putin will wish to put Ukraina in its place as well before the hard-ball days are over. That is unless he gets a package that is so much more lucrative that he can not say no.
    One idea I have tried to push over here in Norway is to get some ideas for a northern cooperationgroup going: Japan, Canada and the Scandinavian countries offering to build economic zones in the harder parts of Russia, using subsidies to create viable production-factories that would create zones of economic activity. SInce these countries, with the possible exception of Japan, have no place in the russian culture of paranoia, this could be a viable leverage packet since the russian achilles heel is its lack of basic production for the world market.
    I think at least that is the way to think if we want to engage Russia instead of confronting them. I do not think any western leader wishes to get into a staring contest with mr. Putin, he is one tough mother. (The looks on his face as he has been serenading mr. Bush the last years, lol. Looks like he visualizes a sharp chop to the kidneys every time there is a photo-op…)

  15. Dave of Maryland says:

    The Deal: No expansion of NATO on the borders of Russia in return for a commitment on the part of Russia that there will be no further introduction of Russian Republic forces or “volunteers” into former parts of the USSR that are now independent.
    So what to do with the millions of Russian passport holders stranded in the former Soviets? What if the US, in a moment of economic & political crisis, lost the southwestern states? Which became independent & subsequently allied with Fidel’s Castro & Chavez’s Venezuela? What would Washington do about the non-Hispanic, English-speaking populations left behind in the former states of California, Arizona, New Mexico & Texas?
    No such easy solutions.

  16. peg says:

    Did McCain’s senior foreign policy adviser, Randy Scheunemann, put Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili up to provoking Russia?

  17. meletius says:

    Well, Russia has moved beyond ideology but we haven’t, not with our neo-con crazies and the sort of power they have—and the “Return of Russia!” (scary music here) is an old tune they simply LOVE to play!
    The US is a militarist operation whose major industries require massive government funds to keep profits flowing. And this payment requires political “reasons”, however dubious, for the militarism and massive “defense” spending.
    So “deals” are definitely not an attractive proposition.
    The neocons ran the US militarism show almost entirely on the “War on Terror” and Evil Arabs for a decade, and man do they want to have their beloved Authoritarian Russian Bear back prowling the back lots and garbage dumps….voila, here he is!!

  18. Patrick Lang says:

    Sorry, but justice seeking in international relations is the road to war. pl

  19. João Carlos says:

    Mikhail Saakashvili: “The commitment by US President George W. Bush to send assistance to Georgia means that US troops will take control of Georgian air and sea ports”
    I really fear that some mistake happens and US troops get killed by russian troops or vice-versa… and the THING get out control.
    Rice too is not helping. It is not time for bravatto, but diplomacy.

  20. Paul says:

    If George Bush was a professional football or basketball player, he’d be one of those marginal players who “taunt” opponents with his mouth rather than with his ability. The bluster about Georgia is taunting on a grand scale.
    McCain is the same. Any tough sounding rhetoric that flows through his shrunken brain comes out of his mouth. He is perhaps more dangerous than Bush because a lot of people actually take his words to heart. He’s a “military hero”, after all. Except for Olberman and Froomkin of the WaPo, the main stream media has done little to present a balanced background surrounding both sides of the story in Georgia.
    I spent a lot of time in Russia (working on Nunn-Lugar programs) and it was (and still is) my sense that one trifles with the Russian military at their peril. NATO membership for former Soviet states and ABM-type systems in Russia’s backyard is taunting thus foolhardy and dangerous. In my working days (80s and 90s) with the DOD, NATO was perceived by many in the military as a joke. NATO member nations are showing their contempt for years of American lip-service with token representation in Afghanistan.
    We are indeed sliding down that slippery pole. Given the grim state of the economy, the last thing we need is another military adventure. I can’t wait to see and hear the fairy tales Cornholio Lieberman and Cornpone Graham recite to the Georgians.

  21. Arun says:

    The small states around Russia, China, India will always feel threatened. Even if they aren’t actually threatened, it generally works for politicians of those small states to compete with each other on nationalism.
    So that the world can concentrate on alleviating poverty, and fixing environmental problems, a general pattern of institutional arrangements to make everyone feel reasonably secure would be useful (and IMO, merit the Nobel prize for peace).

  22. Curious says:

    Oh yeah, here come the Ukrainian part. Yushchenko is definitely gone without his patron saint, Bush.
    (anybody has scenario for caucasus already? I got the feeling where everything is heading is obvious and predictable.)
    Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko signed a decree on Wednesday imposing new restrictions on Russia’s Black Sea fleet, which is based in the Ukrainian port of Sevastopol.
    The restrictions included a requirement that the Black Sea fleet seek the permission of Ukraine’s armed forces at least 72 hours prior to ships or aircraft crossing the Ukrainian border, said the decree.
    If Russia does not fulfill the new requirements, Ukraine may demand that naval ships and aircraft of the Black Sea fleet leave Ukraine’s territory immediately, according to the decree.
    The move ratcheted up tensions between Russia and Ukraine, which has given political support to Tbilisi during Russia’s military conflict with Georgia.
    However, the Ukrainian president’s decree will not apply to the ships of the Black Sea Fleet currently off the coast of Georgia.
    “It is not a retroactive act. Therefore, no legal grounds unfortunately exist today to demand a liability from the Black Sea Fleet crews,” First Deputy presidential chief of staff Oleksandr Shlapak said at a press briefing in Kiev on Wednesday.

  23. charlottemom says:

    Col Lang,
    I absolutely agree that your compromise seems the best approach. That means, of course, that it will NOT be followed by this admin. So much propaganda being spewed by the usual suspects on the Russia-Georgia conflict and the eagerness by the admin to get involved – “humanitarian aid” being airlifted as we speak. US advisors still in Georgia?! McCain and the aids he shares with the Georgian gov are clearly itching for the US to go after Russia.
    Was it you that described this whole fiasco as a “Guns of August” moment? Yes, yes, it has that potential.
    Oh, and I love that Condi is flying first to Paris to confer with Sarkozy and then to Georgia. I thought she was a Russian expert. Why then no negotiating with Russia at all (a template of US/Iran policy?) Others (ie. the Europeans) running the show on this? Of course the Isrealis are also knee deep.

  24. Mark Logan says:

    On CSpan today (Aug 13th):
    The AEI gave their take on things. Fred Kagans military
    analysis is worth watching for the irony, if nothing else. Ralph Peters had
    a memorable quote: “Russia
    is a land of drink sodden barbarians that occasionally
    pukes up a genius…Putin.”
    For them, happy days are here again.
    Let’s hope the next administration has better councilors.

  25. ta ruane says:

    Good idea. The knee-jerk reaction (see The Wash Post editorial on the Russian intrusion into Georgia) is to vilify Russia. While Putin an Co. are by no means squeaky clean, understanding their psyche and where the old Rusks are coming from is the harder but stronger route.
    We dissed Germany after WW I, and look where that got us. Even the Russians deserve common, decent respect.

  26. GSD says:

    Does anyone care to tally the proxy wars fomented by the US in the past few years that haven’t ended in military rout and political humiliation?
    Maybe it’s time to reliberate Grenada.
    From Yahoo:
    “This is Abkhazian land,” one of them said. Another laughed that Georgians retreating from Abkhazia had received “American training in running away.”

  27. Twit says:

    I would just like to ask all those who are so breezily recommending that we abandon Georgia and defer to Russia, where were your opinions and easy comments when your/our country was making commitments to Georgia 2-4 years ago? That is when it mattered. Not now. Now the mess needs to be cleaned up, lines drawn, etc.
    When I was in Georgia for the first time in 2006, it was very obvious that the country saw a meaningful alliance with the US as their only way out from a life of unending conflict and poverty. Georgia will never accept being in the Russian sphere. They prefer war, poverty, and misery. Whatever what you or I may think of this calculus, it’s a fact.
    Col Lang, you may be right and I think I can assume that this has been your position all along, but for those of you who are new to this part of the world, just think about where your opinions were when they actually mattered.

  28. Memory, resentment and riches

    By Fester: Brad Delong in 2007 wrote something that has stuck to me as a very useful analytical perspective in analyzing American policy for the next fifty years and the value of creating positive sum relationships:There is a good chance

  29. Patrick Lang says:

    Yes. That was always my position. pl

  30. Clifford Kiracofe says:

    Yes, indeed, some serious diplomacy with Russia is warranted based upon mutual respect and the principles of mutual advantage and non-interference in internal affairs.
    The narcisisstic US foreign policy elite has to adjust to the context of an emerging multipolar world. The model for the US is not some nostalgic aping of imperial British 19th Century Eurasian policy. One might recall we had our OWN constructive AMERICAN policy with Russia back in that day based on a cooperative vision for the Pacific and commercial relations.
    There is a broad range of issues to be dealt with. While some are certainly challenging there are opportunities including those which can enhance US foreign commerce. Cooperation on energy security, cooperation on counterterrorism, cooperation on regional security issues such as the Middle East should be on the agenda.
    David Habbakuk,
    Per your comment on the 5th gen thread “If the alternative to McCain is going to be an Obama who listens to Bzezinski, all I can say is heaven help us…the rather predictable Russian response…”:
    McCain is a hardline Neocon follower and has been for a couple of decades. Will he change his spots? Some have argued that a circle of wise retired admirals using a Navy connection is attempting to change the spots. Well, good luck gentlemen, but McCain’s latest according to the Neocon WSJ:
    ” Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain has outlined a plan to confront and isolate American nemeses such as Russia and Iran. That position has gained currency recently, but risks clashing with international cooperation on issues such as climate change and nuclear proliferation.”
    My circle of Republican friends supports Obama. Why? Well, we know Randy and that Neocon crowd very well say over the last 30 years. With Obama there is a slight chance for change…very slight but nonetheless worth a try.
    Obama’s policy? Well yes, much remains to be seen. He has called for engagement at high levels with Russia and Iran, for example, and this quite positive. But are we going to engage them pragmatically and get down to serious business like security and commercial issues or endlessly whine about “democracy” as a cover for geopolitical provocation and faux diplomacy? Note Michael McFaul is another so-called “Russia expert” advising Obama. Oh joy.
    It is good to see the British press slowly coming around to the folly of the present Neoconish and thus delusional Georgian leadership and by implication the Bush Administration’s dangerous and inexcusable mishandling of Russia policy. We used to have serious men who knew what they were doing…General George Marshall, George Kennan, “Chip” Bohlen among them.

  31. Curious says:

    When I was in Georgia for the first time in 2006, it was very obvious that the country saw a meaningful alliance with the US as their only way out from a life of unending conflict and poverty. Georgia will never accept being in the Russian sphere. They prefer war, poverty, and misery. Whatever what you or I may think of this calculus, it’s a fact.
    Posted by: Twit | 14 August 2008 at 03:07 AM
    Well, they get their war, poverty and misery all right.
    If you look at Georgia budget. The deficit grew significantly under Shakashvili. We are talking about -7 ~ -9% of GDP. I am surprised Russia didn’t just choke that country buy doing curency manipulation ala Zimbabwe or Iceland.
    Regardless, Shakashvili’s war will put Georgia in IMF debt for generation to come. in western side, Georgia is now about as hot as poor african country. It only has one thing going: the pipe. Armenia and Iran are providing/going to provide alternate pipes for Turkey.
    On top of that, Russia will insist arm embargo against Georgia. And they are not going to do it via UN, but with guns and missile. Any plane supplying weapons…. boom. (Tho’ Russia isn’t that terribly patient with blockade and embargo if they can just blow things up)
    Last: If you look at picture of Georgian Humvee, gift from Bush and Condi. It has a lot of problem:
    1. It’s in desert camo, instead of highland forest color. It sticks out like sore thumb. (I don’t know how stupid that thing look on pictures)
    2. Georgia can’t afford driving around humvees. That puppy is running on gas turbine, using 4 times as much diesel fuel to transport half as many people/equipments around. And the Georgian has no mechanics to fix a turbine. (Very dumb thing to have for a poor country.)
    3. The russians are going to be itching to try to see what the new georgian’s training is all about. (Not to mention blowing up a couple US made equipments for trophy.)
    … so my take. The Russians are going to stick around until Shakashvili gives up. (Sarkozy and Condi aren’t going to do much except blustering on TV and running around like doing more press conference. Condi has no idea what to do.)
    Germany, Russia’s biggest trading partner is already in recession. They are not happy. They are going to launch war against Condi themselves if she keeps doing what she is doing. They already lost one of their biggest trading partner doing neocon job, Iran. Now Russia too? no way.
    btw, european economy is about to change from mild recession to crashing hard. watch the number. People are going to start torching US embassies in europe soon.)

  32. Binh says:

    NATO formed “tokeep the Americans in, the Russians out, and the Germans down” as NATO’s first Secretary General Lord Ismay put it. The expansion into the former Soviet bloc was logical given the reason for NATO’s existence, especially as the U.S. tries to counterbalance and offset the rising power of the E.U. which is not U.S.-dominated.
    When the news of the war first broke (I didn’t read anything just saw headlines) I thought the Russians had started it, and that they had built up some forces on the border in preparation of the invasion. Obviously, they didn’t start it, but from what I’ve read they also didn’t build up their forces for an attack which makes their swift victory pretty surprising (to me the untrained eye):
    Any thoughts on that issue from those with military/intel experience?

  33. charlottemom says:

    Regarding our commitments to the various “revolutions” (rose, orange, etc) in former Soviet entities, let me ask what are those commitments exactly and to whom? I remember alot of flag waving crowds, elections of US friendly leaders, and “military defense systems” and pipelines installed. Our commitment to these projects, democracies, etc., seemed more about oil, natural gas and Russia, then about supporting these actual democracies. I think we’d better rethink exactly what these commitments are now and try to reach a compromise with Russia and these individual countries.
    What is the state of democracy in these countries? I’m asking because I honestly don’t know.
    I’m no apologist for Russia, but it seems to me we have little credibility, diminishing influence, and we’re stretched economically, militarily. And Russia has used this opportunity to jump into the power vacuum.
    P.S. Twit “Russians prefer war, poverty and misery” Do you really believe that? Only them, huh?

  34. David Habakkuk says:

    Clifford Kiracofe,
    Certainly at the moment the devil you don’t know, as it were, seems a much better bet. As you point out, Obama is an unknown quantity — and one simply has to hope that he will learn. It is, I must admit, the messianic element that frightens me, but that may be simply rhetorical.
    I do get afflicted by a nostalgia for Eisenhower.
    I also will claim consistency on this point. Back in February I pointed on this blog to the extremely destabilising implications of the decision formally to recognise the independence of Kosovo — rather than to leave matters as a ‘frozen conflict’. Restating worries I have had for years, I wrote:
    ‘In the longer term, however, I remain worried about how the situation in the Ukraine could develop. My sister-in-law comes from the Western Ukraine — but, having a Russian mother, is completely bilingual. The Western Ukraine was part of the Hapsburg Empire up till the end of the First World War, then part of Poland. Ukrainian nationalists commonly looked to Germany, so one consequence is that the Ukraine contains people who had diametrically opposite identifications in one of the greatest and most savage wars in human history.
    ‘When my wife and I were in Kiev with her a few years ago, she time and again addressed people in Ukrainian. In every single instance they replied in Russian. This does not mean that the inhabitants of Kiev want to reunite with Russia. But the Donbass and the Crimea may be a different matter – and after all, the Crimea is only in the Ukraine because of Khrushchev’s 1954 ukaz transferring the area from Russia.
    ‘I think a question worth asking John McCain, for one, would be if indeed he proposes to include Ukraine and Georgia in NATO, what he would do if a few years down the line the local authorities in the Crimea denounce Khrushchev’s action as an example of totalitarian arbitrariness at its worst, and announce they want to open negotiations for reunion with Russia?
    ‘Suppose at the same time stories begin appearing in the Russian press about technical hitches in gas supplies to Europe — and maybe maps showing the radius of Russian INF missiles.’
    Actually I opposed NATO expansion from the start, in part precisely because I feared creating a hard line through Europe would mean we would be left with a choice of either appearing to abandon countries like Georgia and the Ukraine or give them guarantees which would encourage them to behave recklessly and which when push came to shove we would not honour.
    Another reason was that verbal commitments were made to Gorbachev that acquiescence in the incorporation of a united Germany in NATO would not mean further expansion of the Alliance. That he did not ask for any written guarantee is an indication of the trust — moral authority one might say — that the United States then enjoyed in Russia. That priceless asset has been recklessly squandered.
    He is now widely considered a gullible fool in Russia. We made him so.

  35. ISL says:

    Interesting, possibly just propaganda, but Russia claims to have found dead American fighters killed in the Georgia-Russia conflict.
    If true, it (along with sending a military aid plane) suggests we (as represented by the reality making clique) are playing a very dangerous game of chicken with the Russian (chess expert) bear instead of being sensible (as suggested above).

  36. Yohan says:

    Twit, it was an easy answer before this crisis because of Iran.
    Like it or not, we need Russia to effectively deal with Iran and there’s no way of getting the Russians on our side if we’re constantly antagonizing them on their most important issues: NATO expansion and missile defense. Both of those initiatives have done nothing for US national security and so I have always seen both of them as excellent bargaining chips in order to secure Russian direct pressure on Iran as well as Russia’s cooperation in the Security Council.

  37. Will says:

    Such a deal is now a day late and a dollar short.
    NATO (Nato according to European convention) expansion is not in our strategic interest. Where was our HUMINT when the dictator of Georgia sent 300 artillery pieces to the capital of South Ossetia on a punitive night raid to level the city? To steal a phrase, where were our minders to dissuade the “ant from going up against the anteater?”
    It is time some national leader starts taking to heart G. Washington’s words about “entangling alliances!!!”
    Are we going to be at the mercy of some tinhorn dictator (yes, freely elected like Hitler, but having declared martial law) sending field artillery to level a city in a night raid? Do we want such as a NATO ally?
    Or Ukraine? The cradle of Russian civilization, a nation deeply divided about NATO, with a large Russian ethnic minority- do we want to force that issue? Or will it be time for more dioxin laced soup for Mr. Y?
    This is what we get when we elect a college cheerleader and AWOL guardsman as President.
    Not that McCain or Obama will be any better.

  38. VietnamVet says:

    There is no doubt that George Bush and John McCain are delusional. They both act as if Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) was liberal hogwash from their drunken youth.
    In Georgia they are fooling around with “Gun of August” escalations that only need one salvo of ballistic missiles to end civilization.

  39. Cieran says:

    where were your opinions and easy comments when your/our country was making commitments to Georgia 2-4 years ago?
    Good question. Here’s mine:
    I believe this is the money quote:
    Many of the salient features of Khrushchev’s government are readily recognized in our own current administration, including a slavish adherence to party unity (a rubber-stamp Congress), a complete inability to manage effectively during times of crisis (Katrina), ill-considered foreign adventures (Iraq), the subjugation of scientific knowledge to political orthodoxy (global warming, anyone?), ineptitude in fiscal strategy (the dollar risks joining the ruble as a symbol of the combination of great national strength and even greater financial weakness), the replacement of actual technical competence by blind party loyalty as the desired characteristic of all members of the ruling class (heckuvajob, Rummy!), and the abandonment of core national principles in search of selfish grabs for money and power (anyone ever hear of the Constitution?).
    I’d put us at “points 1 through 3” right now in this emerging crisis, with a side order of point 5, rapidly heading towards yet-another undeclared war (that would be point 7).
    I’ve long opposed perfunctorily-considered foreign adventures (e.g., extending NATO without thinking clearly through the consequences, much less bothering to look at a map!), and frankly, it breaks my heart to see the U.S. emulating the fall from grace of the Soviet experiment, instead of our serving as a role model for other nations via a consistent commitment to our core principles as an informed democracy.
    In other words, adhering to the principles of great Americans like George Washington instead of chickenhawks like George W. Bush.
    Washington’s farewell address (and Eisenhower’s!) warned us clearly what not to do with our republic, and we risk much when we refuse to listen to such well-earned advice.
    Thanks for asking!

  40. David Habakkuk says:

    Also Afghanistan — particularly if the U.S. is foolish enough to attack Iran. As Brigadier F.B. Ali pointed out recently on this blog, an attack on Iran would cause fury in Pakistan, which would make it very difficult for any Pakistani government to maintain cooperation with the U.S.
    So the supply of the NATO effort in Afghanistan would then depend upon access from the north — which depends on Russia.
    In which case, the effective choice for an American President might be between seeing the whole campaign in Afghanistan collapse — or eating a lot of humble pie vis a vis Moscow.
    The U.S. (and Britain) handed the jihadists a golden opportunity when they invaded Iraq. Thankfully, their fanaticism, sectarianism and sheer cruelty meant that they blew it.
    A strategy of all-out confrontation with both Russia and Iran would let them off the hook — again.

  41. Twit says:

    Charlotte Mom:
    First, Georgia is a democracy, but Saakashivili is a president like Marion Barry was a mayor. He did a lot of good at first, but has become so taken with himself and addicted to national reunification over substantive reform that he now risks undoing all the progress he made (South Ossetia being the crack pipe in this analogy).
    Second, I said that the Georgians, not Russians, prefer “war, poverty and misery” (over reintegration into the Russian orbit). In other words, the only way that the Georgian people will go back to the Russian fold will be through systematic oppression of Georgian popular will. This means either by Russia subduing and brutalizing the country by force or by some hypothetical pro-Russian Georgian dictator. The point of course is that whatever ‘deals’ we make with Russia over Georgia will require us to sacrifice either alliances (Georgia, and possible Ukraine and others) or principles (e.g. support for democracies and allies).
    DH, and others:
    I completely agree that NATO expansion should have been more thought out, and should not have planned to include Georgia. But coulda-woulda-shoulda. My point is that our promises and commitments to Georgia (and Ukraine, etc) need to be given a real place at the table as we figure out our posture towards Eurasia for the next 20, 30, 40 years. A lot of Georgians died this week because of those commitments, and unfortunately I sense that many people’s justified hatred of Bush and Co are blinding them to the necessity to give our promises due consideration.

  42. Clifford Kiracofe says:

    ” the messianic element that frightens me, but that may be simply rhetorical….”
    David Habbkuk,
    1. Yes, this appears to be a problem. For example, just recently about 2 dozen key economists and financial leaders including Volker, Rubin, Summers, Laura Tyson and etc. met with Obama. I heard from several friends who spoke directly with, or heard from someone who did speak directly with, several participants. The assembled experts from what I gather were taken aback by Obama’s arrogance and insoucience and the lack of any substantive questions or discussion. “As if he expected us to kiss his ring,” was a comment which got back to me last week. What is he? Who is he? is a valid question. I have a feeling he is is a “work in progress”…but an alternative to the certainty of Bushism-Neoconism under McCain.
    2. Yes Eisenhower and a moderate and constructive internationalism would be the right wavelength but it has been all but purged from the Republican Party.
    3. One key indicator for Obama’s Middle East policy would be the role of Dennis Ross (if any). Ross is a hardline member of the “pro-Israel” Lobby. Of late he has been heading the “People Policy Planning Institute” a project of the Jewish Agency.
    On the other hand, retired Ambassador Daniel Kurtzer, another advisor to Obama, is highly respected.

  43. David Habakkuk says:

    This war was not provoked by a Russian attempt do dominate Georgians who do not want to be controlled by Russia.
    It was provoked by a Georgian attempt to control South Ossetians who — like Abkhazians — do not want to be controlled by Georgia.
    If one is dealing with a Georgia composed purely of Georgians who want to belong to Georgia, then such a country has every prospect of avoiding a reversion to Russian control.
    Such a country, moreover, would be eminently deserving of American support.
    For the United States and Israel to arm a Georgia which was patently hell-bent on reabsorbing South Ossetia and Abkhazia, however, was either folly or knavery.
    If those involved did not know that Saakashvili would take this — together with promises of incorporation into NATO — as a green light for military action, they were fools. If they did know — and overt warnings to desist from taking military action were accompanied by covert indications that the U.S. did not really object — they were knaves.

  44. Cieran says:

    My point is that our promises and commitments to Georgia (and Ukraine, etc) need to be given a real place at the table as we figure out our posture towards Eurasia for the next 20, 30, 40 years.
    And what commitments would those be, beyond military sales? As Tim so eloquently framed this notion here a couple days ago, in Georgia we are dealing with customers for our expensive military hardware: we are not forming alliances.
    The notion of an alliance has an inherent sense of “complementary”, of some mutual advantage that cannot so readily be gained from an individual approach. It’s not at all clear what essential complementary advantage our supporting the current Georgian government provides to the citizens of the U.S., beyond perhaps creating some additional jobs in the defense sector, for weapons systems that the Georgians arguably cannot afford, much less effectively utilize.
    The BTC pipeline is important to the U.S., but a prudent defense of that energy asset would likely not proceed from a Georgian artillery barrage on South Ossetia.
    I’d reiterate here the relevance of George Washington’s advice about foreign entanglements.

  45. Clifford Kiracofe says:

    It might be relevant to consider the Russian perspective. From a speech in June by the Russian Foreign Minister:
    “There is already no doubt that the end of the Cold War marked the end of a longer stage in global development, which lasted for 400 to 500 years and when the world was dominated by European civilization. This domination was consistently led by the historical West.
    As regards the content of the new stage in humankind’s development, there are two basic approaches to it among countries. The first one holds that the world must gradually become a Greater West through the adoption of Western values. It is a kind of “the end of history.” The other approach – advocated by Russia – holds that competition is becoming truly global and acquiring a civilizational dimension; that is, the subject of competition now includes values and development models.
    The new stage is sometimes defined as “post-American.” But, of course, this is not “a world after the United States,” the more so without the U.S. It is a world where – due to the growth of other global centers of power and influence – the relative importance of the U.S. role has been decreasing, as it has already happened in recent decades in the global economy and trade. Leadership is another matter, above all a matter of reaching agreement among partners and a matter of ability to be the first – but among equals.” The entire text is instructive.

  46. Georgia is just a better situation to reflect need for Russia to send message that its role in the world is back then Grenada for President Reagan. About the same significance with one exception. Oil and gas pipelines. Probably the raison-d’etre for the invasion Europe now knows that its future is subject to energy supply whims of the Russian Bear. Be interesting to see how the cafe-society of the EU intreprets this. As for the former Soviet Block members they really are glad they joined NATO and just hoping US stays in but as I have long suggested time to go for US. Let Europe decide whether it wants to slough off the lethargy of the nuclear umbrellas of past half-decade. The French and Brits were right to keep their nukes and watch out because I expect the Germans are working on their nuclear posture even as we talk. After all, no UN Security Council statuts for permanent members unless nuclear capable.

  47. b says:

    Georgia will never accept being in the Russian sphere. They prefer war, poverty, and misery. Whatever what you or I may think of this calculus, it’s a fact.
    Of the 200 years since 1800 Georgia was partially – see Abkhasia and South Ossetia – independent of Russia for some 12 years. Uhh – they never accepted that?
    Wll, that certainly makes them perfect resistance fighters (as Krauthammer says) or people oppressed by foreign rulers – who were those Stalin and Beria?
    Let’s cut the junk please.
    Georgians are not fighters. Georgia has been defended by Russian rulers for 200 years against the Persians and Turks.
    They are certainly smart and made their decent cut within the Russian empire.
    Saak is a simplistic corporate Wall Street lawyer without any strategic knowledge.
    He seems to thing that a four million nation without any natural assets can survive between Russia, Persia and Turkey by being supported from some 10,000 miles away disinterested hegemon.
    A stupid bet if I’ve ever seen one.

  48. Curious says:

    Very well played. Russia has won the central asian game. The rest is execution.
    I doubt Condi has a clue what just hit her, but her option is very limited. Escalate and put troop on the ground. Or be ignored.
    I can’t even think of a single clever military operation that will save the entire thing without turning into global nuclear war.
    Russia may change Iran position due to U.S. support for Georgia
    Russia may change its position on the U.S.-led effort to prevent Iran from building a nuclear bomb because of American military support for Georgia, Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov said.
    “We’ll think twice” about Iran, Ivanov said in an interview with Bloomberg Television in Moscow today. “We’ll keep in mind how our partners acted in this period of crisis which Russia faced,” he said. “So far we haven’t vetoed UN resolutions” on Iran.
    Russian and Georgian forces fought for five days in and around the breakaway Georgian region of South Ossetia before agreeing to a truce on Aug. 12. The U.S., which had more than 100 military advisers in Georgia before hostilities began, flew Georgian soldiers back from Iraq during the coflict, a move Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin criticized as “interference.”

  49. R.W. Bloomer says:

    Could the EU be tempted now to repudiate Bush/neocon/U.S. foreign policy in hope of securing their access to the pipelines from Baku? Could NATO (reported to be paying $14,000 per ton to airlift freight into Afghanistan) be tempted now to do the same in hope of gaining access to Soviet era railways clear across Europe and Central Asia to the Peace Bridge between Uzbekistan and Afghanistan?

  50. Curious says:

    What is amazing about this clip from 1980’s (same players, same BS, and same damned problems)
    Soviet-Pakistan-Cold War, etc.
    I am pretty sure somewhere in Russia, a smart strategist is thinking “let’s bleed the american in Iraq and afghanistan” gambit.
    absolutely amazing. nothing has changed in the past 2 decades.

  51. PeterE says:

    None of these comments, as far as I can tell, mention that Saakashvili is somewhat unsavory and imprudent, that the U.S. and Israel supplied arms to Georgia and seemed to encourage saber rattling, that the Israel has folded its tents and silently crept away, that the U.S. is in a humiliating position and its reputation as “standing tall for freedom” etc. is in tatters.

  52. Canuck says:

    Recognizing Kosovo’s independence was a mistake. Does the world splinter into millions of pieces? Is the ultimate country for me English-speaking, red-haired only, white, Anglo-Saxon protestant, with no military forces to defend themselves relying on bigger states promises to provide it for them?

  53. Twit says:

    David Habakkuk:
    You oversimplify the situation (which admittedly is always hard not to do with the Caucuses). Yes, the immediate provocation of the war was Georgia’s attempt to strike a decisive blow against Russian presence in South Ossetia by seizing the Roki Tunnel and severing the only route for Russian forces in and out of the region. But the major proximate causes/provocations of the war were (we can debate their relative order of importance) a) Saakashvili’s obsession with national reunification, b) Russia’s obsession to control its near abroad and consequent anger at Georgia’s turn to the West, c) continuous Russian harassment of Georgia (e.g. closing Georgian-owned businesses in Russia and deporting Georgian citizens, cutting off Russia-Georgia trade, and the various minor military provocations over the past 3 years), and d) ham fisted US attempts to bring Georgia into the West’s multilateral institutions. In other words, what you call the attempted ‘domination’ by Georgia of the Ossetians and Abkhaz is only a very small part of the equation. It should be also emphasized that these peoples are not Russian and Russia does not care about them other than as a tool to achieve its objectives vis a vis Georgia.
    Also, you said “For the United States and Israel to arm a Georgia which was patently hell-bent on reabsorbing South Ossetia and Abkhazia, however, was either folly or knavery.” Again, I think this oversimplifies the issue. The primary US mistake was to give all this aid and make these promises to Georgia and Saakashivili with very few strings attached. The US should have done what they have done in Slovakia, Croatia, and elsewhere – an unambiguous policy that military aid, security guarantees, and the path to NATO are completely and totally contingent on domestic political, economic, and social reforms. This is where the Jacobin fantasy probably had an influence – to think that these reforms would take place automatically because Georgia has elections and is an ally, rather than a result of hard headed, patient, and at times difficult carrot and stick diplomacy with that ally. The result of this failure were Saakashvili’s narcissistic and tragic miscalculations. So again, I see your point, but think it is way too simplistic.
    Cieran: The US commitments I am talking about are to support and fund military reform (i.e. arming and training, see GTEP), and social, economic, and political reform (see for example the Transparency Intl reports from 2004 onwards and WB Doing Business Survey 2007 for some data). These programs are basically the same as the US did for the central European states in the 1990s and that we continue to do for the Balkan states and Ukraine. The open question with Georgia was essentially whether the US should treat it like an Eastern European country (with the full on reform/security package), or like a Central Asian country (i.e. cut a series of deals with the government and its neighbors, especially Russia – which in Georgia’s case would have been a lot about BTC). We decided that Georgia was the former, and the commitments followed accordingly.
    B: My wife’s from Texas, so I prefer horseshit, which is what you’re selling. And Uuhh, like, no, they didn’t accept Russian domination, except through mass murder and brutal subjugation, which was exactly my point. The fact that Stalin and Beria were Georgians is irrelevant, because never did those two ever act ‘as’ such. Georgia as a nation/identifiable culture predates Russia by 1000+ years, so your implication that they owe it all to Russia is bizarre. Also, it is probably more accurate to say that the Russian empires have always been defended by Georgians, as the tsar and the USSR both had a hugely disproportionate number of Georgians in all ranks of the military and security services, because they are known as good fighters.
    Anonymous: Excellent points, and I agree completely with ‘first stop digging.’ Also, I think that quote about the elephants and the grass is perfect – exactly accurate.

  54. Clifford Kiracofe says:

    Negotiations with Russia…
    1. The Georgia situation may offer some insight.
    Seems the US has read, and doesn’t like, the fine print in the Euro (led by France)-Russian document which the Ossetians and Abkhazians have signed but the Georgians have not:
    “During her mad dash around the world today and Friday, however, Rice will be pushing hard to amend a peace deal brokered just days earlier, according to senior officials at the State Department who would not be named because they were describing internal deliberations.In the days before Rice’s departure, the administration left negotiations for a cease-fire up to the Europeans, and officials said the United States stood firmly behind efforts by French President Nicolas Sarkozy to secure an agreement.The cease-fire agreement, as described by several U.S. officials, contains two major holes the administration finds disconcerting….Rice is not traveling with a new document in hand, but rather with ideas of how to fix the gaps that exist in the current one, the officials said.”
    2. And then there is the Harvard Belfer Center sponsored American “commission” traveling to Moscow in November to work on US-Russian Relations:
    “The Belfer Center at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government and The Nixon Center are pleased to announce a new Commission on United States Policy toward Russia. The commission will be co-chaired by former Senator Gary Hart and Senator Chuck Hagel (R-NE).
    “The purpose of the commission is to produce a report for the U.S. president-elect, members of Congress, and the interested public offering its best judgments about American national interests and priorities in the U.S.-Russian relationship; explaining why a constructive U.S.-Russia relationship remains critical; and presenting policy recommendations for a new administration to advance America’s national interests in relations with Russia.”
    In addition to the Co-Chairs, Commission members include:
    The Hon. Robert Blackwill, Senior Fellow, RAND; former deputy National Security Advisor
    Gen. Charles G. Boyd (Ret.), President and CEO, Business Executives for National Security; former deputy commander-in-chief, U.S. forces in Europe
    The Hon. Richard Burt, Managing Director, McLarty Associates; former Assistant Secretary of State for European and Canadian Affairs
    Sarah Carey, Partner, Squire, Sanders Chair, Eurasia Foundation
    The Hon. James Collins, Senior Associate and Director of the Russia and Eurasia Program, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace; former U.S. Ambassador to Russia
    Susan Eisenhower, President, The Eisenhower Group, Inc.
    The Hon. Robert F. Ellsworth, Chairman and Founding Director, Hamilton BioVentures; former Deputy Secretary of Defense and Ambassador to NATO
    Thomas Graham, Kissinger Associates; former Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Russian Affairs, National Security Council
    Maurice R. Greenberg, Chairman and CEO, C.V. Starr and Co.
    The Hon. Lee Hamilton, President and Director, Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars; former Chairman, House Committee on Foreign Affairs
    The Hon. Carla Hills, Chairman and CEO, Hills and Company; former United States Trade Representative
    The Hon. Jack Matlock, Adjunct Professor, Columbia University; former Ambassador to the U.S.S.R.
    Robert C. McFarlane, Chairman, McFarlane Associates Inc.; former National Security Advisor
    Mark Medish, Senior Adviser, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace; former Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Russian, Ukrainian, and Eurasian Affairs, National Security Council
    The Hon. Sam Nunn, Co-Chairman and CEO, Nuclear Threat Initiative; former United States Senator
    The Hon. Thomas Pickering, Vice Chairman, Hills and Company; former Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs and Ambassador to Russia
    Lt. Gen. Brent Scowcroft (Ret.), President, The Scowcroft Group; former National Security Advisor
    The Hon. J. Robinson West, Chairman and Founder, PFC Energy; Chairman, United States Institute of Peace
    The Hon. Dov S. Zakheim, Vice President, Booz Allen Hamilton; former Under Secretary of Defense (Comptroller) and Chief Financial Officer for the Department of Defense.”
    So will this “moderate” element of the US foreign policy elite be able to overcome the hardline Neocon-Israeli imperial element in the debate on Russia policy? The moderates on the Baker Commission didn’t get very far anent Iraq.
    3. Questions.
    What are the implications of Georgia situation for this US policy debate?
    Very convenient for the Neocon element to use to sabotage any improvement in US-Russia relations…isn’t it?
    Just what was Israeli General Gal Hirsch’s role (and his Israeli colleagues) in launching the Georgian aggression in S. Ossetia (a week after the public announcement of the new commission)?
    What actually happened in the meetings between Shaul Mofaz and Barak in the White House a week BEFORE the Georgian aggression…some green lights, winks, and nods like Lebanon 06 or ’92 for that matter?

  55. LeaNder says:

    and watch out because I expect the Germans are working on their nuclear posture even as we talk.
    Very, very funny. The security business no doubt could use the well-established-German-danger scenario beyond the new-Hitler brand.

  56. Cieran says:

    The US commitments I am talking about are to support and fund military reform (i.e. arming and training,
    Exactly. They are customers, not allies.

  57. Twit says:

    Cieran: If that’s the pith you seek, than ok. The bottom line is that the US let Saakashivili get away with ignoring most of the non-military reform elements because there was no pressure from the top to make it happen. This was due more to ignorance, incoherence, and neoconnish half-assedness, rather than some military-industrial conspiracy, which you seem to be implying. See US NATO policy on Croatia in the mid 1990s for a lesson in how in an analogous situation the US forced domestic reforms as conditions for joining the Euro-Atlantic sphere, and you can see how it was done wrong in Georgia’s case. This is relevant only because 3-4 years ago, the US made the choice to invite Georgia on this path.

  58. Tyler says:

    I wish there was more Russian views out here on this.
    The fact is that 99% of the news we’re getting is easily identifiable as coming from the spin zone, with little input from Russian officials, other than the rare quote here or there.
    Regardless, Rice looked ridiculous today, waving around the cease fire “agreement” that was not signed by Russia, and demanding that Russian troops now have to leave.
    What happens, “Dr.” Rice when the Russians do as they have been and ignore your proclamation?
    I’m going to call the next media meme now: Russia breaks new cease fire agreement.

  59. Mark Logan says:

    Twit, I concur.
    It’s looking more and more to me like the largest obstacle to a suitable resolution may be Saakashvili himself.
    He gave a lot of rambling answers to the questions in the announcement with Sec. Rice. Very disturbing stuff.
    He vacillates between claiming the attack was unprovoked and claiming his
    actions were justified. He also continues with some alarmingly militant rhetoric quite out of place with his current situation. If I were a Georgian, I would actually question the mans state of mind. Georgia might be well advised to separate itself and it’s fate from this man. If they can.
    Likewise to our neo-cons. But I fear they will never give up “one of their own”.
    I believe there is an old Russian saying: “A stupid friend is more dangerous than an enemy.” At least, I think it’s Russian.

  60. Twit says:

    I agree, but since the US is not abandoning Georgia the open question is more whether and how the US will use its leverage over Saakashvili to get Georgia back on the reform path, rather than what Saak will do on his own. Back to the Croatia analogy – Tudjman was much more of a neo-fascist hard case than Misha could ever be and the Clinton administration was quite successful on moving Croatia along the path, militarily and non-militarily.
    I like your quote. I think my favorite Russian phrase has to be “Beer is coffee for monkeys.” (not relevant though, as Georgians drink wine)

  61. Will says:

    During WWII perhaps, the Roki tunnel would have been crucial, unless subverted by an airborne assault. But in this day and age to an air mobile power such as Russia it could have been easily leapfrogged.
    It is my limited understanding that the Georgians, that’s what we call them anyway, the Karteles, conducted a night raid on the capital city of the Ossetians-Alans-Sarmatians with about 300 cannons and Katshuyas.
    The raid was not designed to hold the city but to obliterate it and to solve the Ossetian problem.
    That is my limited understanding. Thus the ant went up against the anteater. Russian means much more than Slav Russian. Just as American means much more than Wasp American. Such an act could not go unpunished.

  62. Will says:

    to build on my earlier comment on “what is a russian?”
    from the wikipedia article on Lenin (who most people would agree is a Russian)
    “The family was of mixed ethnicity, his ancestry being “Russian, Mordovian, Kalmyk, Jewish (see Blank family), Volgan German, and Swedish, and possibly others ”
    Kalmyk is Mongolian. Mordovian is Finno-Ugartic probably close to Ossestian and Turkic.

  63. David Habakkuk says:

    You write:
    ‘It should be also emphasized that these peoples are not Russian and Russia does not care about them other than as a tool to achieve its objectives vis a vis Georgia.’
    Contrast Anatol Lieven, who has spent a good deal of the past twenty years reporting on conflicts in the former Soviet space, and reported from the area when the Georgian-South Ossetian conflict first erupted back in 1990. He points out that ‘the Ossetes are the oldest Russian allies in the Caucasus who have provided troops to the Russian army in many wars.’ And he describes current Russian policy as being driven ‘a mixture of emotion and calculation’ — and also as having more limited objectives than you suggest.
    ‘The Russian security establishment likes the Ossetes, who have been Russian allies for more than 250 years. They loathe the Georgians for their anti-Russian nationalism and alliance with the US. For a long time they hoped to use South Ossetia initially to keep Georgia within the Soviet Union and later in a Russian sphere of influence.
    ‘That Russian ambition has been abandoned largely in the face of the Georgians’ determination to escape from this influence.
    ‘What remains is an absolute determination not to be defeated by Georgia and not to suffer the humiliation of having to abandon Russia’s South Ossete client state, with everything that this would mean for Russian prestige in other areas. Vladimir Putin’s Kremlin made it clear again and again that if Georgia attacked South Ossetia, Russia would fight. Georgian advocates in the West claimed that Moscow was only bluffing. It wasn’t.’
    (See http://www.newamerica.net/people/anatol_lieven.)
    The Caucasus is an area about which I have no claim to anything but the most superficial knowledge. However, some arguments made by the Canadian anthropologist John Colarusso, who has apparently been involved in back channel diplomacy in the area, seemed plausible. His contention is that, here as elsewhere, attempting to retain imperial (in this case Stalinist) boundaries causes more problem than it solves — and makes Georgian escape from Russian influence enormously more difficult than it need be.
    Some Thoughts on the recent fighting
    by John Colarusso, Ph.D.,Professor, Department of Anthropology, and Department of Linguistics and Languages, McMaster University, Ontario
    I have been opposed to American policy toward Georgia since 1993 when I first became involved as a back channel diplomat on matters between Washington and Russia regarding the Caucasus.
    I told various and sundry in Washington repeatedly that to endorse the Stalinist boundaries of Georgia was to leave her chronically open to Russian pressure and manipulation. I might mention that this American policy endorses the machinations of one of history’s great tyrants and mass murderers, and also repeats 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.
    Now because of NATO requirements, these regions also present an insurmountable obstacle to Georgian membership in Partnership for Peace or whatever program NATO might extend toward Tbilisi.
    I also warned repeatedly that Georgia had an exaggerated view of her importance both regionally and internationally. I cautioned that any understandings with any Georgian leader would have to be spelled out in considerable detail, lest he or she overreact on any number of issues.
    The atrocities committed under the late Zviad Gamsakhurdia in 1991-2 in South Ossetia and in 1992-3 in Abkhazia, with the warlords Tengiz Kitovani and Jaba Ioseliani, have left the Ossetians and Abkhaz with little trust for Tbilisi. None of these fears has been addressed as far as I know in subsequent talks.
    Ethnic facts on the ground also have not been addressed. For example, the secession of Azerbaijan from the USSR split the Lezgian community. Russia and Azerbaijan have worked out an agreement by which Lezgian have privileged status in crossing the border to visit relatives and others within their community. Such arrangements for either the Ossetians or with the Abkhaz for the Abazas or their Circassians kin have never been put forward to my knowledge.
    Strategic assets that are vital to Russia also fall within both regions. In South Ossetia the Georgian Military Highway forms a vital asset for Russia should she want to project force southward into the Middle East. This asset is therefore opposed to Western interests, but this should not blind us to Russia’s determination to maintain this region as apart from Georgia when the latter is being placed into an adversarial role toward Russia by the West.
    In Abkhazia there is a listening station that is used by the Russian’s to monitor nuclear testing in the Middle East, Iran, and Pakistan. This would be in accord with Western interests if intelligence sharing protocols with Russia were to remain in place. No efforts have been made to assure Russia of Western cooperation on such test monitoring, as far as I am aware.
    A few Western commentators have said things that were either wrong or mendacious. One has characterized Georgia as a small and insignificant country. It is small, but it is highly significant both for its pipeline and for its geo-strategic position at the hub of the Turkey, the Middle East, Eastern Europe and Central Asia. Another said it was not an American ally. With 2,000 troops formerly stationed in Baquba in Iraq, I would say that it was a strong American ally.
    I derive no pleasure form being vindicated. I only hope that policy makers understand that diplomatic moves cannot achieve goals that are tactically unachievable, whether for want of military might or of political will. Regardless of how badly some may want a strategic structure to encircle a resurgent Russia, if such a structure cannot be tactically achieved, then the strategic goal must be replaced with other arrangements, many of which may involve compromise and accommodation of a politically distasteful form.
    Certainly after the West’s recognition of Kosovo, there should be little surprise if the Russians now do the same for Abkhazia and South Ossetia (which will probably simply become part of North Ossetia – Alania). I anticipate that Russia will ignore diplomatic efforts to return to an status ante bellum.
    (See http://circassianworld.blogspot.com/2008/08/some-thoughts-on-recent-fighting.html.)

  64. Clifford Kiracofe says:

    “Regardless of how badly some may want a strategic structure to encircle a resurgent Russia, if such a structure cannot be tactically achieved, then the strategic goal must be replaced with other arrangements…”
    David Habbkuk,
    Thank you for posting Prof. Colarusso’s valuable insights. The US has placed itself in the position of defending Stalin’s borders.
    1. Other “arrangements” do indeed need to be made between the US and Russia and this, as with Iran policy, without Israeli interference. Professor Trita Parsi’s book which I noted earlier in discussion is essential reading on this point.
    The current US policy of joint Israeli-US encirclement of Russia in the Caucasus via Georgia and Azerbaijan must be dropped but will McCain or Obama do so? Will the US pro-Israel Lobby permit them to do so? These are the hard policy questions.
    2. Anent anthropology, as US Caucasus observer, Liz Fuller, explains:
    “Tell me a little about the people who live in Abkhazia and the people who live in South Ossetia. Are they different ethnically from the people who live in Tbilisi in Georgia? Do they speak different languages?
    Yes, they do. This is part of the nature of the conflict. This is why when the Soviet Union was established, both the Abkhaz and the Ossetians had separate republics on the territory which was historically their homeland. The Abkhaz are a North Caucasian people; they speak a language that is totally different from Georgian. They claim that in the Middle Ages they had their own independent kingdom with their own king. They bitterly resent the Georgians. They especially resent Stalin’s policies that started just after the Second World War that settled en masse Georgians in Abkhaz to dilute their population. It ended up with the Abkhaz being something like 20 percent of their own republic.
    The Ossetians are Indo-Europeans. They speak an Indo-European language. The historic homeland of the Ossetians is split between Georgia and Russia. There is a North Ossetia republic just the other side of the Georgia-Russia border and its president is very, very keen on bringing South Ossetia into the Russian Federation so that all the Ossetians will live together in one republic even if it is not an independent republic.” http://www.cfr.org/publication/16098/
    I would note there is an Abkhaz community in Turkey which goes back several centuries in the Ottoman period. A friend of mine from this community, whose family Turkified their last name in the Ottoman period, is Muslim (Sufi) and Abkhaz is still spoken by family members.
    Here is a technical discussion of the Abkhaz from an anthropological perspective:

  65. Cieran says:

    This was due more to ignorance, incoherence, and neoconnish half-assedness, rather than some military-industrial conspiracy, which you seem to be implying
    I prefer the term “perfunctory” to “half-assed”, personally. Just a matter of taste.
    And as far as military-industrial conspiracy theories, you won’t find me wearing that particular tin-foil hat. My dictionary begins the definition of “conspiracy” with the phrase a secret plan…, and the discretionary budget of the U.S. is hardly a secret.
    Nor is the fact that over half of that discretionary budget is dedicated to military spending, totaling more than the rest of the world’s military expenditures combined.
    And apparently, that is still not enough to make us safe.
    Hence the all-too-obvious and thus not-at-all-conspiratorial perfunctoriness of the Bush administration’s foreign policies…
    … including, but not limited to, the Caucasus.

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