Georgia Update

I am hearing things from within Georgia that are best not repeated until a day or so has passed, but genrally my understanding is that the situation is primarily one of confusion. The Georgians have declared a cease fire (some 24 hours or so ago) and claim to have stopped fighting. The Russians claim that this is not the case, and they continue to move troops and carry out bombing runs. The international airport near Tblisi has been bombed, and a Geogian naval ship has been sunk. People are fleeing not only South Ossetia but other regions including around Tblisis as well. This sitution is not likely to become calm any time soon. The power keg that has been sitting since 1992 may be lighting off as we speak.

Stay tuned.

Comments

  1. #1 student_b
    August 10, 2008

    The problem with unilateral cease-fire is, it only works well if you’re the stronger side.

    Doing it while you’re losing, won’t work…

    (At least, that’s my conspiracy rumoring about it. ;) :| )

  2. #2 Alex Besogonov
    August 10, 2008

    I’m Russian and so I’m reading Russian blogs and media. I’m also in constant contact with several friends in Tbilisi (Georgian capital).

    It seems that Georgian president is insane. It’s now absolutely clear that he can’t win anything. There’s no hope of reconcile with Ossetians anymore after he ordered shelling of a city.

    However, now we have reports of 100 tanks moving to Ossetian border and of two saboteur groups caught in act of trying to blow up a road connecting North and South Ossetia (one group with American instructor, no less).

    American media is also less than helpful. They simply parrot ‘Russia is the aggressor, look at these poor bombed Georgia’. No reports at all about Ossetia.

  3. #3 Alex Besogonov
    August 10, 2008

    Some reports from Ossetia (conspicuously absent from US/UK media): http://www.vesti.ru/videos?vid=143622

    There are also eyewitness reports that Georgian military on purpose shot civilians.

    I hope that after this war is over, an international tribunal will judge Saakhasvili. But there’s little hope of this. After all, President Bush is Saakhasvili’s best friend.

  4. #4 James Hanley
    August 10, 2008

    While Georgia does appear to be largely at fault, the most frightening thing is that they’ve given Russia a good excuse to engage military force to begin reconstituting their lost empire. This is very bad for the world.

    And where was George W., the man who looked into Putin’s eyes and saw his soul, while his soulmate and an important American ally moved toward war? He was clueless and uninvolved.

  5. #5 Alan Kellogg
    August 10, 2008

    Alex,

    You are such a beautiful example of bias.

  6. #6 Paul Murray
    August 10, 2008

    Is this all happening anywhere near any one of the Caspian Sea oil pipelines?

  7. #7 Greg Laden
    August 10, 2008

    Alan, Alex may be a good example of bias, but he might be 80 percent right in thi case.

    Paul: The pipeline conspiracy explanation for everything that happens in Georgia has fallen flat too many times to be very important. Only in that movie.

  8. #8 Helioprogenus
    August 10, 2008

    I’m going to repost my attempt at trying to outlay the foundations for this conflict in Georgia from the Pharyngula thread.

    Ultimately, this conflict comes down to territorial integrity and whether a sovereign nation has the right to uphold it when separatists within the internationally recognized boundaries declare de-facto independence.

    In Georgia’s case, the country that we know of as Georgia is actually a commonwealth of a number of republics. Recently, because of the geopolitical games to control the region, Georgia has been fighting an internal conflict between groups that want to remain allied with Russia, and others that prefer to ally with NATO and the West. During this conflict, both the United States and Russia have sent special forces to control the region. Georgia is vital to both Russian and NATO (read US) interests. At the moment, Georgia is being used as a corridor to transport oil from the Caspian Sea port of Baku in Azerbaijan, to the Turkish mediterranean port of Ceyhan for consumption in the West. Similarly, Georgia is vital to Russia’s strategic interests with Iran. Armenia, sharing the southern border of Georgia is pro-Russian (although there’s a heavy opposition that wishes to break those ties and move closer to NATO) and has a north-south fuel corridor with Iran. By gaining control over Georgia, Russia can link itself to Iran through rail, energy supply, and various other economic resources. Similarly, by limiting Russia’s role, NATO and the West can maintain a strong East-West corridor, thereby checking Russia’s regional influence. At its heart though, this region of the world has seen its fare share of conflict between superpowers. When the Roman and Persian empires fought to a stalemate, it was Armenia and Georgia that were frequently used as buffer states. When the Turks and Byzantine were at odds, it was again the same region that was critical for power and control.

    The modern problem also stems from the borders of Georgia being drawn up by Stalinist policy. In essence, the Caucuses is a very culturally heterogenous region, with various ethno-linguistic groups vying for political independence. As many remember from the wars in Chechnya and to a lesser extent Daghestan in Russia, as well as these current conflicts with South Ossetia and Abkhazia in Georgia, the region is highly volatile and prone to constant dissatisfaction. As an Armenian, I can attest to similar problems when the Armenian province of Nagorno-Karabagh in Azerbaijan tried to break away and assert their political independence. Ultimately, it lead to a still-ongoing conflict and although the region is under Armenian control, the political situation is highly charged. Any regional conflict like this in Georgia can easily escalate into a larger conflict with these other republics.

    One thing that must be understood is that the media is going to be biased towards NATO and the West. The actual spark of this conflict was Georgia’s surprise attack on South Ossetia’s capital, thinking the world would be distracted, and the expectation of Russia’s excessive response. The thinking in Georgia was that with Russia’s severe aggression against its vital interests, the West would come down hard and it would cause a major diplomatic rift. The player in all this that goes unmentioned are the Americans who’ve sent special forces in Georgia. It would be cynical to assume that Georgia was coerced into a response thinking that they would capture South Ossetia (although internationally recognized as Georgian territory, many of its citizens hold Russian passports and are therefore like their brothers in North Ossetia, Russian citizens), but with the vital importance of regional control, this is sadly the typical international chess game, with the expense being paid by innocent civilians.

  9. #9 Helioprogenus
    August 10, 2008

    Also, I further went into detail due to some misunderstanding on the previous post.

    I also wasn’t letting Russia completely off the hook, but trying to provide a better framework for explaining the conflict in the region. I agree that Russification is a major factor [post Soviet provinces within the newly formed Republics wanting to join Russia or become independent], but as you can see from the conflict in Chechnya, it wasn’t exactly beneficial to Russia or completely effective. What Abkhazia, Ajaria, and South Ossetia, have in common is that although they’re provinces of Georgia, they see their future closely aligned with Russia instead of the West. Since they’re semi-independent and have de-facto control over their regions, they feel that they shouldn’t need to be subservient to Saakashvili and the West. His Rose revolution, though quite important for regional control of the West, is actually looked upon as disastrous by the opposing provinces. When you have such a culturally heterogenous region that’s also of great strategic importance, you’re going to have all sides attempting to exploit the region for their economic benefit. It comes down to simple economics and geo-political control.

  10. #10 Alex Besogonov
    August 11, 2008

    Helioprogenus:

    That’s too complex. Try simpler explanations.

    Like: Saakhasvili wanted to grab Ossetia while Russian government was busy watching the Olympic games. Captured plans show that he ACTUALLY planned a Blitzkrieg – with capturing Ossetia during the first day!

  11. #11 Helioprogenus
    August 11, 2008

    Yet, the fact remains that Georgia wouldn’t have risked such a bold move if they didn’t expect some measure of support from NATO. It’s a high stakes game of chess, and with the thought that the Russians would be caught completely by surprise, and the ease with which South Ossetia would be captures, Saakashvili knowingly bombed thousands of innocent civilians hoping to either capture Ossetia completely, or have Russia overreact and lead the world to condemn the actions. On the latter account, I believe Geogia succeeded, but in the long run, it will strengthen Russia, and indicate to NATO and the EU that Georgia is not ready to enter (considering the charge that the surprise attack knowingly put civilian lives in jeopardy and can be grounds for war crimes).

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