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Zbigniew Brzezinski on Russia and Georgia:

Former Carter National Security Adviser and longtime Russia expert Zbigniew Brzezinski has some interesting comments on Russia's war with Georgia in this interview. I'm not sure that the situation requires as forceful a Western response as Brzezinski argues for. However, he is right to suggest that Russia's offensive - which now apparently includes an effort to overthrow the democratically elected Georgian government - is an ominous sign of the Putin regime's imperialistic ambitions. I also agree with Brzezinski's comment that "This invasion of Georgia by Russia is a very sad commentary on eight years of self-delusion in the White House regarding Putin and his regime." Even George W. Bush probably has to admit that he was wrong to believe that there is any good in the former KGB colonel's "heart and soul," which Bush claimed to have looked into back in 2001.

Brzezinski has recently served as a foreign policy adviser to Barack Obama. It would be interesting to know if his views on Russia reflect those of the Democratic nominee.

sputnik (mail):
Isn't this the same Brzezinski who worked in Carter administration?
I'll hazard a few guesses here:

1) Putin is clearly in charge and he is making it known that Russia is PISSED and will REMAIN PISSED until the Georgians do something about their incredibly politically-naive and militarily-stupid (40-year old American-trained lawyer from New York) prime minister -- like a coup (something that happens a lot in the Caucasus);

2) Putin is locking in Russian territorial gains in South Ossetia before it retreats from the Georgian heartland, causing as much damage as possible to Georgian infrastructure for years to come (like Georgia's primary airfield outside of Tblisi -- virtually destroyed by Russian heavy bombers);

3) Meanwhile, Russia is provoking war in Abkhazia in a two-fer-one fire sale (perhaps they'd like to carve away Adjaria, in the southwest, as well?); and

4) Putin is showing the West how easy it would be for the Russians to disable or destroy the BTC pipeline (which could cause global oil to jump a good $30 per barrel).

Remember, the Georgians had a 2,000 man contingent in King George's Coalition of the Shilling, in Iraq (who are now being air-lifted back home, thanks to Uncle Sam), making them the third largest coalition partner, after Britain.

The U.S. also trained the Georgian army at length and is their major arms supplier.

This is Russia's -- specifically Putin's -- way of saying to the U.S. -- specifically Bush -- "fuck YOU".

So much for looking into their soul, eh?

Two possible flashpoints still remaining:

1) Russian use of ballistic missiles into Georgia; this has got to violate several treaties on its own; and

2) The possibility of U.S. involvement if a stray Russian missile takes out a U.S. plane ferrying Georgia military personnel home.
8.10.2008 10:25pm
Displaced Midwesterner:
I think Brzenzinski is pretty much right on the money. And how the US responds to Russia's aggression will be very important. The country of Georgia is not something most Americans are probably even aware exists, but Russia views much of its interaction with the US through the prism of Georgia.

This is one of those situations where it is important to look not just to what is happening now, but to what will happen in the future. I can imagine a "realist" arguing that any strong confrontation with Russia over Georgia would not be worth it--the stakes are simply too small. But the problem is that failing to act now will basically just green light Russia to do similar things over and over again, one little move at a time, each seemingly too small to bother with, but the sum will be quite damaging. And Georgia is geopolitically a lot more important than its size would lead one to believe.

This is one of the more blatant acts of aggression by a major power in recent times. The US owes it to itself and to the world to really step up to the plate this time. Bush has mangled a lot of things during his presidency, it would be nice to finally see him to do something right.
8.10.2008 10:30pm
Perseus (mail):
It was quite appalling to see President Bush embracing 'Prime Minister' Putin as if they were good buddies at the open ceremonies of the Olympics.
8.10.2008 10:31pm
Anon21:
Displaced Midwesterner: You talk about acting, and stepping up to the plate. What does that mean? What meaningful pressure can the U.S. bring to bear on Russia to stop it from doing whatever it likes to Georgia? Obviously, we do not ourselves have the military capacity to stop the war, which is the most obvious import of your language. What's the alternative?
8.10.2008 10:35pm
Bill Poser (mail) (www):
It seems to be pretty clear that at the mega-level Russia is the bad guy here and that its imperialistic ambitions ought to be resisted. On the other hand, I'm not at all clear as to the justice of the South Ossetian secession movement. Are they merely pawns of the Russians, or do they have a legitimate case, even if the Russians are supporting them for entirely wrong reasons?
8.10.2008 10:47pm
Don F (mail):
If Brzezinski's right about this, and I think he is, it's the coincidental accuracy of a stopped clock. If Putin were (1) communist or (2) islamofascist or (3) invading some place of strategic importance, Zbig would say we should leave the poor dear alone.
8.10.2008 10:50pm
Displaced Midwesterner:
The pressure the US needs to bring is that of the sort Brzezinski is advocating: not just extreme diplomatic pressure, but various political and economic sanctions. For the most part Russia is fairly rational, if crude, about its policy approaches. What is needed here are some serious adjustments to the cost-benefit scenario Russia currently sees.
8.10.2008 10:51pm
Sam H (mail):
"Obviously, we do not ourselves have the military capacity to stop the war, which is the most obvious import of your language."

Of course we do. We could get control of the air in a couple of days if we have the assets in place - A couple of Carrier Battle Groups and every F-22 we have flying out of Iraq or Israel.
8.10.2008 10:51pm
Bill Poser (mail) (www):

Of course we do. We could get control of the air in a couple of days if we have the assets in place - A couple of Carrier Battle Groups and every F-22 we have flying out of Iraq or Israel.


I take it this is because the Georgian forces are quite competent so long as they aren't overwhelmed by sheer numbers, which in the short term is not an issue since it is difficult for Russia to move large numbers of troops rapidly through the mountains into South Ossetia. So a bit of air support is all the Georgians need to fend off the Russians?
8.10.2008 11:04pm
Sam H (mail):
"So a bit of air support is all the Georgians need to fend off the Russians?"

It would certainly help and we could use our air against the Russian ground forces.

"...since it is difficult for Russia to move large numbers of troops rapidly through the mountains into South Ossetia." Note how fast the Russians have moved. They had to have been planning this for some time.
8.10.2008 11:25pm
Shannon:
I just thought I might take a minute and point out that the BTC pipeline was already closed down prior to Russia's escalation of hostilities against Georgia, and was scheduled to be offline for as long as 5 weeks. I'd imagine that the oil futures markets have already priced in the loss of what oil cannot be diverted from the BTC during that period.

I am in complete agreement with Brzezinski on how critical the West's as well as the International Community at large's response is to the situation in Georgia. I have to wonder though what Georgia's VERY close ties to the U.S. (see earlier comments regarding training and equipment from the US), as well as their huge relative participation in Iraq (they were the 3rd largest contributor of troops - not bad for a country of 4.5 million) does to their standing and the relative volume of condemnation we will see from an international community where being close to America doesn't quite buy what it used to in terms of support.
8.10.2008 11:30pm
Barbara Skolaut (mail):
It would be interesting to know if his views on Russia reflect those of the Democratic nominee.
They might, or they might not - today.

Tomorrow - who knows? Certainly not the Democratic presumed nominee.
8.10.2008 11:31pm
Paul Allen:
As an expat maybe your naivety Ilya, is forgivable, but this is but one piece is Russia's energy imperialism. There is a good deal now suggestive that this is indeed Russia's key interest here: they want to control the only Western alternatives to Russian extraction of the Caspian sea oil.

The territory itself is critical to this as is Russia maneuvers in Azerbaijan (also in progress), and their bombing of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline in the present campaign.

Its hard to see these three things happening together and miss the significance of the situation. Yet the media has been woeful in stitching the pieces together--at least in presenting this as a unified story. Ignorance it seems abounds.

I suspect that the West would take a harder line here, except Russia has carefully groomed the near East by spinning in the media for a few years now that the Georgian government is a Western puppet. Now any Western action risks poisoning the hearts and minds.
8.10.2008 11:37pm
Hoosier:
Displaced Midwesterner:

I'm sorry to have to be the one to make your prediction come true. (Being a Midwesterner-in-place and all.)

But I do take a realist approach to this issue. The "Near Abroad" matters tremendously more to the Russians than it does to us. We are not going to use force to compel the Russians to leave South Ossetia; nor does the political status of Ossetia or Abkhazia have much relevance for America's strategic interests.

Russia wants to be a Great Power, and exerting this sort of "influence" in the Caucusus is part of the way that Moscow lays claim to that status. Better Ossetia than Poland. In a perfect world, Russia would be content to hold on to Russia. For whatever reason, they have never been so. Is it worth the cost to us to contest their policy in Georgia? If so, why?
8.10.2008 11:42pm
J. F. Thomas (mail):
Of course we do. We could get control of the air in a couple of days if we have the assets in place - A couple of Carrier Battle Groups and every F-22 we have flying out of Iraq or Israel.

We are already fighting two wars that we can't afford (or rather are unwilling to pay for or supply manpower for), and now you want to get involved in a third?

Are you ready to sign up and actually fight this war, or have your taxes increased significantly to pay for it? How do you plan to supply natural gas to the Germans this winter when the Russians cut off their supply. Are you willing to spend the billions of dollars (and the commitant increase in taxes to immediate post-WWII levels)to keep the lights on in Europe and prevent the economy there from collapsing.

If not, then I suggest you STFU. The age of free wars is over.
8.10.2008 11:44pm
sputnik (mail):
I think there's not a lick of difference between the Russian and Georgian regimes. Moreover, the Georgian government started this immediate crisis (long-running issues aside), and they appear to have done so in a very brutal fashion. So far, I don't see any indication of the Russians having gone beyond the bounds of what might be deemed 'legitimate', given that we are already discussing a tragic, violent situation to nobody's credit. There is no evidence, for example, of deliberately targeting civilians, although the same cannot be said of the Georgians. This may all change in the coming days of course, but so far the Russians seem less scummy in this business.



I expect the US media and public opinion to come out heavily against Russia though, given that Georgia is a client state, and that the McCain camp is firmly in its pocket and has a huge incentive to reduce this to politics-friendly good guy vs. bad guy stuff
8.10.2008 11:55pm
Bleepless (mail):
What will the United States do? Nothing. It might interfere with W's vacation.
8.10.2008 11:56pm
Paul Allen:
Yes, the AF should be jumping on this: finally a purpose for the F22 pushing. Seriously, we should be thinking about coming to the aid of Georgia as if they were members of NATO and pushing the Russian Bombers out of Georgian airspace.
8.10.2008 11:56pm
jccamp (mail):
Since no one (who is talking about it) knows the Russians' intentions re: greater Georgia, we cannot really make an assessment about the stakes here yet. Certainly, the U S has no military option except perhaps resupplying the Georgians, who presumably aren't up to Russia's armed forces for any extended conflict.
NATO just refused Georgia's application for membership, primarily because of fears about a future Russia-Georgia conflict. Now that the fighting is more than speculation, NATO is not about to get in the middle of this little war.
Putin and his ambitions are a huge problem. The U S should get tough via sanctions and trade restrictions, but they should be considered and thought through, maybe even left for the next President &Congress to decide.
I can't imagine we have any true strategic interest in Georgia. We do have a strategic interest in restraining future Russian aggressive behavior.
8.10.2008 11:58pm
sputnik (mail):
the amount of ignorance!!!
Georgia actually, you know, started the thing by sending its entire army into an unstable area which doesn't want to be Georgian sovereign territory in the first place and in which Russia had an internationally-recognised and CIS-mandated duty as a protector of the local's lives and liberty. Nobody mentioned that Georgia, a CIS member, violated its own obligations to the CIS brokered deal over South Ossetia.

No mentioning either that a senior State Dept. official was in Georgia just last week or that the US actually has a small permanent military base in Georgia - which guarantees that Russia doesn't try to annex Georgia proper, even if it really wanted to - and so the Bush administration must have known which way Saakashvili intended to jump and seems to have done diddly-squat to dissuade him.


Yet another disappointing move by triangulating Obama. "Change you can believe in" shouldn't include swapping the last set of hawks for the previous ones, but apparently it does - and it also includes playing to decades old American fear of the Soviet/Russian "menace". I can console myself with the thought that Clinton would have been even more hawkish and McCain is dreadfully warlike in comparison still, but it doesn't really give me a warm-fuzzy about the elections.


Lastly, how many of you supported the independence of Kosovo?
Ossetians do not want to live under georgians, you know.
Are they different kind of people?
8.11.2008 12:07am
David M. Nieporent (www):
We are already fighting two wars that we can't afford (or rather are unwilling to pay for or supply manpower for), and now you want to get involved in a third?
I don't recall him saying anything about "wanting." He said that we have the capability to do so. Which we do.

The reason we're not going to intervene is neither money nor manpower, but the fact that Georgia is not worth WWIII. There's no possible face-saving way out if we actually attacked Russian forces. We could try sealing off the Roki tunnel and then see if Georgia could handle it on its own -- except that it can't. Russia already has too many forces on the ground, plus a naval force in the Black Sea, plus complete air superiority. So we would need to actually attack Russian forces. And once we do that, well, let's just say it wouldn't be good.
8.11.2008 12:08am
David M. Nieporent (www):
Lastly, how many of you supported the independence of Kosovo?
Ossetians do not want to live under georgians, you know.
Are they different kind of people?
The U.S. certainly is hamstrung by the Kosovo precedent -- but then, the Russians are equally hamstrung by the Chechnya precedent.
8.11.2008 12:11am
Bill Poser (mail) (www):
The New York Times is now reporting that Russian forces have entered central Georgia and are advancing toward the city of Gori. This suggests that they have an agenda beyond defending South Ossetia.
8.11.2008 12:19am
Hoosier:
"
The reason we're not going to intervene is neither money nor manpower, but the fact that Georgia is not worth WWIII. There's no possible face-saving way out if we actually attacked Russian forces. We could try sealing off the Roki tunnel and then see if Georgia could handle it on its own -- except that it can't. Russia already has too many forces on the ground, plus a naval force in the Black Sea, plus complete air superiority. So we would need to actually attack Russian forces. And once we do that, well, let's just say it wouldn't be good."

And we have a winner.

The Kosovo analogy is not apt. It is not as if Nato was stirring up secessionist sentiment in the former Yugolavia to create a pretext for later military intervention. The question we face concerns Moscow's behavior, not the desires of the Ossetians. The Putin regime is not acting out of a desire to protect them.
8.11.2008 12:19am
Jim at FSU (mail):
Couldn't we just blow up the Georgian side of the Roki Tunnel and start giving the Georgians other assistance like dropping them anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons?

Regarding the Roki Tunnel:
A) The Russians can't prevent this because we have stealth and standoff abilities they can't counter.
B) Plenty of plausible deniability, especially if the Georgians mount a doomed mission to take out the tunnel and we slip in and do it for them at the same time.
C) It's on Georgian territory anyway so we can blow it up with their permission

Without Roki, the Russians are limited to resupply via air which is not really their strong point.

Then it is just a matter of helping the Georgians to bleed out the forces already across the border... What do we have in the way of air-droppable anti-tank and anti-air that we could put together on short notice? I know we have lots of anti-tank options but the US isn't really noted for their strong anti-air as we tend to rely on air superiority to shoot down enemy fighters and bombers. Maybe borrow a huge pile of soviet era stuff from Iraq? The Georgians would be trained on it already.
8.11.2008 12:21am
Smokey:
So sputnik, the useful fool on the payroll, thinks everything is Georgia's fault?? Maybe this guy is everyone's pal after all.
8.11.2008 12:21am
Hoosier:
The fact that a Brzezinski interview led Ilya to think of Bush's seeing of Putin's soul is just beautiful. That quote reminded me of Carter more than anything else Bush has ever said.

Remember this gem from 1994 (sure to be on every Carter's Greatest Hits album)?:

"Mrs. Cedras was impressive, powerful and forceful. And attractive. She was slim and very attractive."

This stunned me. Bush's comment was no less dumb. To quote Bill the Cat: Gaaack!
8.11.2008 12:25am
Jim at FSU (mail):
Also, has anyone considered the upside of letting Europe freeze this winter? They would have to find an alternative to appeasing Russia and Russia would have to find something else to threaten them with. Russia would also lose a quarter of their GDP.

The only real question is the practical one of how to sever a thousands of miles long pipeline.
8.11.2008 12:27am
Jim at FSU (mail):
In case anyone hadn't noticed, the Kremlin has people all over the English speaking internet propagandizing on behalf of this action. They are easy to spot once you learn to recognize the Russian party line. My money is on sputnik being yet another one of these Kremlin foreign relations guys.

It's very clever of them despite the obviousness.
8.11.2008 12:30am
Hoosier:
SPUTNIK: "Lastly, how many of you supported the independence of Kosovo?
Ossetians do not want to live under georgians, you know.
Are they different kind of people?"

Neither do the Ossetians living in Abkhazia want to live under the Abkhaz. I assume you support their right to secede? And the roughly 30% of South Ossetia that is Georgian may then secede from Ossetia?
8.11.2008 12:35am
Hoosier:
"They are easy to spot once you learn to recognize the Russian party line"

Plus they wear boxy suits that have never seen a tailor. And monochromatic knit ties.

I think it is a good thing to have shills on these boards. It helps Russia squander resources that could otherwise be spent on something dangerous.

Like VCers have any influence on world affairs . . .
8.11.2008 12:38am
jccamp (mail):
"Georgia actually, you know, started the thing by sending its entire army into an unstable area which doesn't want to be Georgian sovereign territory in the first place..."
Actually, the Georgians are claiming that Ossetia separatists started this by shelling Georgia proper. Certainly, Russia has been massing troops along the border for weeks. The Georgians are trying to make the case that Russia's proxies created an incident to allow Russian intervention. There's at least room for more than Sputnik's single take on things, a view more sympathetic to Georgia.
Which does not make this conflict something we need to get into. But we should not foolishly ignore what this may bode for future Russian expansion.
8.11.2008 12:42am
Dave N (mail):
But Hoosier,

First Mikhael Gorbachev and then Vladmir Putin have shown that not every Soviet or Russian leader wears boxy suits--and that being a thug doesn't necessarily mean you can't recognize the value of a good tailor.
8.11.2008 12:46am
Hoosier:
Dave N--Well, I certainly grant you point. But I suspect these guys aren't the Hermes-tie sort. Still, I dunno. Shilling for Putin may pay well these days. Especially if you are in a management position.

But let's keep history in mind. Stalin was from Georgia. So it probably IS their fault.
8.11.2008 12:49am
Bill Poser (mail) (www):

Stalin was from Georgia. So it probably IS their fault.


But apparently Stalin's family were ethnic Ossetians. Does that make it the Ossetians' fault?
8.11.2008 1:09am
BGates:
Former Carter National Security Adviser and longtime Russia expert
Pick one.
8.11.2008 1:09am
Paul Allen:
The situation is really beginning to harm the US. Georgians reported feel abandoned by their Western Allies--and I agree.

The US should have moved to secure Georgian Airspace, and Bush should have left China.

Instead we get a public relations disaster. Bush enjoying the games while Georgia burns. Its Nero all over again.
8.11.2008 2:02am
Paul Allen:
So if you decompose communism into imperialism + socialism... we can say that the Putin wing of Russia is the rebirth of imperialism. In other words: the really bad part.

There's lots of talk comparing Russia to Germany, and by implication a cycle of Appeasement by the West. A panic is building Ukraine that they're next...

This is really bad news.
8.11.2008 2:10am
Displaced Midwesterner:
So, who is to blame for the current crisis? Sputnik makes the claim that really this is all Georgia's fault anyway, and that the Ossetians don't want to live under Georgian rule (which is true more or less--and if Russia does gain true complete control over S. Ossetia I suspect that in a few years they will find that they probably like that even less). I think this claim is pretty overstated, but as with just about every conflict of this type, both sides have dirty hands (personally I think the Russians' hands are a bit dirtier here, but I know more Georgians than Russians, so I may be biased on that point). Going into the details of all this history and who did what and when and why and etc. is, however, all pretty useless at the moment, and more importantly, it is beside the point. Russia is not intervening to usher in a new age of freedom and prosperity for the oppressed people of South Ossetia. They are acting out their imperial ambitions, seeking to achieve a variety of policy goals that have already been discussed above. The key question here is how/if to respond to Russia's actions. The actual issue of the Ossetians is sadly quite tangential to the real concerns. It is primarily a consideration for rhetoric, but not very important to actual substantive decisionmaking (as usual little countries are the playthings of the great powers. Georgia is feeling the weight of that role right now, and the even smaller South Ossetia is feeling it even more).

As for Hoosier's raising of the realist argument, I, as I noted earlier, have to disagree with it. Now, if we are talking ships and planes and bombs, then I might have to side with him. I am not sure this is really worth a genuine military confrontation with Russia. But this particular crisis, with this particular antagonist, is, I believe, a situation where political and economic sanctions can have an impact (if nothing else I expect this pretty much keeps Russia out of the WTO for a long time, unless that is one of the concessions they extract in return for withdrawal--which is certainly a possibility). And such sanctions are a much lower cost to us to implement. As for the gain, it can be substantial. An unchecked Russia can wreak all sorts of havoc on various interests overseas, with detrimental consequences here. The already mentioned BTC pipeline is of course the most prominent. There are also intangibles like our reputation and presence, which have already taken a bad enough beating.

Whatever happens, I wonder if this will help accelerate closer US-China relations. China and Russia are going to end up at each other's throats eventually and the US and China will need to resolve what exactly our relationship will be. The more annoying Russia gets, the more likely it is we will get friendlier with China (although, in the grand scheme of things, Russia is probably not a big enough issue to sway US-China relations if things like trade, etc. are pushing the other way).
8.11.2008 2:22am
T.R.F.:
If Russia were just reacting to Georgia, Russian tanks wouldn't have gotten into Georgia on the 8th. The sheer logistics of an armored invasion are such that, for the invasion on the 8th to happen, Russia had to already be taking concrete, physical action with the intent of mounting an invasion before the first Georgian troops entered South Ossetia.

What we are witnessing, then, is a deliberate, premeditated assault on Georgia by Russia, a flagrant act of aggression, deliberately timed for when heads of state would be at the Opening Ceremonies of the Olympics (and thus distant from the advice of their national security apparatuses).

Unfortunately, as a practical matter, there doesn't seem to be much anybody can do about it. Make plans for setting up a Georgian government-in-exile, I guess. Various sanctions can be added on, but will be of minimal effect; Europe won't agree to anything that limits its supplies of Russian natural gas.
8.11.2008 3:48am
Anon21:
T.R.F.: I think you may be overstating Russia's war aims. Yes, they've mounted territorial incursions into Georgia proper, but they've given no indication so far that they intend to topple Georgia's democratically-elected government, at least not directly. I'm sure no tears would be shed in Russia if the Georgian government was toppled by a coup of some sort and replaced by officials more amenable to accommodating Moscow's hegemonic desires, but it would be quite a change from the current limited conflict if Russia decided to march into Tbilsi and effect such a governmental transition itself.

Although Russia obviously considers the pro-Western Georgian government an irritation, acting to destroy it as a sovereign nation or subordinate its government to the Russian state would shift us from the current paradigm, in which there is no one clear aggressor or violator of international law norms, to one in which Russia is unmistakably revealed as aggressive and expansionist. That, in turn, might very well provoke a military response by the West. I doubt Putin would overplay his hand so seriously right now.
8.11.2008 4:09am
Anon21:
Should be "Tbilisi" above.
8.11.2008 4:13am
LM (mail):
Paul Allen:

Let's say we did attack the Russians, intervening as you'd have hoped on behalf of a country we have no defense pact with. And since we're daydreaming, let's say everything went perfectly, and we totally kicked their ass. What do you suppose would happen next? Would Putin apologize for the misunderstanding and ask if he could make it up to us by slashing natural gas prices? Seriously, how do you see it playing out?
8.11.2008 4:32am
trad and anon:
I and am not eager to see a hot war with the Russians. I grew up learning about MAD and the possibility that at any moment the United States and all our allies could be destroyed in a nuclear holocaust. A hot war with the Russians over this strategically important region (because of the oil pipelines) would not trigger nuclear war, but it would probably put us back in the world of the Cold War, and I don't want that.

Then again, aggression must be checked somewhere. If we don't stop the Russians here, we won't have a plausible means of preventing them from taking the rest of the Caspian-Black Sea corridor, or Ukraine (there's already a pro-Russian government in Belarus). We could expand NATO, but I don't see us doing that.
8.11.2008 6:07am
Lonetown (mail):
I love the gratuitous shot at Bush, as though under a democrat it wouldn't have happened.

Madeline Albright would have been dancing with Putin.

Also, when Bush peered into Putins sould, was that not for public consumption. A way of putting a friendly touch on a summit of leaders? Should he have said, "I don't trust this slimy GB operative"?

How about a straight answer to an interviewers question without the partian snark? Too hard?
8.11.2008 9:50am
PC:
If Brzezinski's right about this, and I think he is, it's the coincidental accuracy of a stopped clock.


I'm wondering if this comment is based anywhere in an understanding of the policies Brzezinski supported or if it's just a knee-jerk anti-Carter comment? Wait, I know. It's the latter. Brzezinski is a hawk. Brzezinski fully supported the Shah, but lost the fight with Carter's State Department to make that support militarily backed in the Iranian revolution. Brzezinski also initiated the strategy to back the mujaheddin in Afghanistan to fight the Soviets. He also wanted to try to draw China into Afghanistan so China would have its own Vietnam. Brzezinski is 100% realpolitik that would make Kissinger proud.

Former Carter National Security Adviser and longtime Russia expert
Pick one.


Seriously, this is like some latent Carter Derangement Syndrome.
8.11.2008 9:58am
c.f.w. (mail):
1. I suggest we view this like ExxonMobil - they could care less if they buy gas and oil from Georgia, Russia or Ossetia. We as customers of EM should not care either. We want the lowest price and most reliable supply - which means end this war quickly. We play into EM's hands by taking the opposite tack (keep the conflict hot).

2. Georgia was part of Greater Russia for 200 years - the Baku fields and pipelines were traditionally controlled by Greater Russia. Why Greater Russia should allow the US and its Israeli adventurers to divert expected tax revenue is not apparent. Greater Russia is in the midst of a hostile takeover - with Georgia/Israel green-lighting the use of force. I suspect Israel sold Georgia on the idea of pre-emptive war (like the 1967 war)- cut off the Roki tunnel and hang tough - but then Georgia and its advisers failed in step 1. A stable solution would be a tax treaty that shares revenue in Ossetia, Georgia and Russia, supporting free trade.

3. The idea of cutting off the Roki tunnel and having a sort of turkey shoot against the armor from Russia in Ossetia and Georgia would not work, since Georgia and Ossetia are in it for the money (oil taxes) and have none of the religious fortitude of the mujihadeen that wiped out the Russians (over 15 years) in Afghanistan. Again, this "turkey shoot" idea is playing into EM's hands - making gas and oil vastly pricier than it needs to be.
8.11.2008 10:04am
TRE:
Maybe I misread the article but doesn't he seem to be calling for a decidedly un forceful full court diplomatic response?
8.11.2008 10:23am
Angus:
A hot war with the Russians over this strategically important region (because of the oil pipelines) would not trigger nuclear war

I, for one, am not so sure about that. It is far easier to escalate situations than to de-escalate them.

Plus, the Russian people from what I can gather anecdotally are fully behind Putin on this. Russian TV News (almost all government controlled) is reporting in Russia that Georgia is committing mass atrocities, have killed Russian "peacekeepers" who tried to stop the war, etc. They've cast the President of Georgia as a Saddam Hussein type mass murderer. Point is, push this by sending in U.S. warplanes to engage Russian air and ground targets and the Russian populace will be more likely to demand an all out war than to think about peace.
8.11.2008 10:50am
Hoosier:
Brzezinski is 100% realpolitik that would make Kissinger proud.

Never! They were bitter rivals in 1960s academia. You don't give in to people like that!

On a more substantive note, you are right about Brzezinski's role in Carter's foreign policy. He played hawk to Vance's dove. The Soviets handed him the victory in the "War of Carter's Ear" when they invaded Afghanistan.

He was also stunned by the Carter Administration's response to the hostage-taking in Iran. He said something along the lines that it was tragic that only the naturalized American on the team saw how important it was to stand up for the nation's honor.

Having said that, I can't see Henry Kissinger calling for a confrontation with Russia over Ossetia.
("A dagger pointed at the heart of Stavropol"?) He is a Big Powers kind of thinker.

What we need to remember about Zbig: He was the first Pole in two centuries who had a chance to stick it to the Russians. He's still living the dream.
8.11.2008 11:14am
Brian Mac:
Just as I was starting to think that this conflict is too nuanced even for John Kerry to understand, c.f.w. comes to my aid: turns out that it's all down to those pesky Jews again!
8.11.2008 11:14am
Hoosier:
"As for Hoosier's raising of the realist argument, I, as I noted earlier, have to disagree with it. "

But you did so politely. Because, at heart, you're still a Midwesterner.
8.11.2008 11:16am
JosephSlater (mail):
War of Carter's Ear. I can't believe I got that reference (Jenkins, right?). Brings me back to my grad school days. . . .
8.11.2008 11:38am
PC:
What we need to remember about Zbig: He was the first Pole in two centuries who had a chance to stick it to the Russians. He's still living the dream.


I know some Poles that would patriotically argue otherwise circa 1920. That doesn't mean Brzezinski still doesn't want to stick it to the bear.
8.11.2008 11:49am
Cenrand:
I for one am shocked, SHOCKED, to see a russian propagandist like c.f.w. use anti-semitism as an excuse to justify russian expansionism.
8.11.2008 11:50am
Hoosier:
JosephSlater

YES!

I wasn't sure if anyone would get it. But since this is VC, I thought Why not?" . . .

You da MAN!
8.11.2008 11:52am
Dave N (mail):
I am not asking out of snark, but because I figure someone here has some expertise, but this question has been going through my head for a day or so:

Georgia has been under Russian hegemony for approximately 200 years or so. I am guessing that S. Ossetia has historically been part of Georgia but that N. Ossetia has not been. Shortly after the breakup of the Soviet Union, the S. Ossetians set up a semi-autonomous region that later provided the pretext for the Russian invasion.

The question is this: Why did the Soviets leave S. Ossetia as part of Georgia in the first place? Why not merge the two parts of Ossetia into their own autonomous region? I really do not know and really am curious as to the answer.
8.11.2008 12:14pm
Michael Noob (mail):
Suggestion to everyone - buy yourself a case of Georgian wine tonight. Try a couple, find your favorite, and keep buying it after the Russian invasion is no longer "hot topic." You'll be directly supporting a fledgling democracy surrounded by thugs. And please help spread the word!
8.11.2008 12:39pm
Angus Lander (mail):
Does "Stalin" really rhyme with "Putin"?
8.11.2008 12:43pm
Paul Allen:

Let's say we did attack the Russians, intervening as you'd have hoped on behalf of a country we have no defense pact with. And since we're daydreaming, let's say everything went perfectly, and we totally kicked their ass. What do you suppose would happen next? Would Putin apologize for the misunderstanding and ask if he could make it up to us by slashing natural gas prices? Seriously, how do you see it playing out?


No, he wouldn't apologize, but he might be dissauded from using military force in the future: not just against Georgia but against the Ukraine as well. Further in an immediate sense we'd secure the pipelines running through Georgia--which as I mentioned before are arguably the strategic objective here for Russia (along with cooling pro-NATO aspirations).

The British FT hits again with spot-on journalism.
8.11.2008 1:26pm
c.f.w. (mail):
Not sure I would call it anti Israel or anti Semitic to say Israel is invested in Georgia, as is the US (at least the Republican side of the US political village). See article excerpt below.

The reason to think at the ExxonMobil level is it is much harder to buy the cooperation of an EM than it is to buy the ear and support of a McCain foreign policy advisor. EM might cost a billion. Someone like a Gerald Parsky (Republican big-wig financed by the Saudis, at least originally) might go for $100 million over 7-8 years.

This is about palaces for the aristocrats in Georgia, who are willing to finance palaces for lobbyists in the US (and help finance the Republican response to Obama).

McCain is perhaps best considered a neo-mercantilist; we need to have Baku oil resources in our US orbit and not in the Russian orbit because we will then be richer and we cannot rely on free trade. Nonsense, as was old mercantilism in the 1700's.

We are not going to get cheaper gas or oil if Georgia pulls this one out. At most, we will get Georgian rulers' contributions to the Republicans and their lobbyists, which is meaningful to the US aristocrats in line to benefit, but should not be a motivator for the US.


http://www.debka.com/article.php?aid=1358 (accessed 8/11/08):

"Jerusalem owns a strong interest in Caspian oil and gas pipelines reach the Turkish terminal port of Ceyhan, rather than the Russian network. Intense negotiations are afoot between Israel Turkey, Georgia, Turkmenistan and Azarbaijan for pipelines to reach Turkey and thence to Israel's oil terminal at Ashkelon and on to its Red Sea port of Eilat. From there, supertankers can carry the gas and oil to the Far East through the Indian Ocean.

Aware of Moscow's sensitivity on the oil question, Israel offered Russia a stake in the project but was rejected.

Last year, the Georgian president commissioned from private Israeli security firms several hundred military advisers, estimated at up to 1,000, to train the Georgian armed forces in commando, air, sea, armored and artillery combat tactics. They also offer instruction on military intelligence and security for the central regime. Tbilisi also purchased weapons, intelligence and electronic warfare systems from Israel.

These advisers were undoubtedly deeply involved in the Georgian army's preparations to conquer the South Ossetian capital Friday.

In recent weeks, Moscow has repeatedly demanded that Jerusalem halt its military assistance to Georgia, finally threatening a crisis in bilateral relations. Israel responded by saying that the only assistance rendered Tbilisi was "defensive.""
8.11.2008 1:48pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
Russia wants to reassemble its empire. Does anyone doubt that? It got to be the biggest country in the world by military conquest, so don't be surprised when it reverts to its old ways.

I wonder if George Bush realizes that NATO is a military alliance and not a trading pact? If Ukraine should become a NATO member, the US had better be prepared to fight a real war. I also wonder if BHO has thought through his position on curtailing military spending in order to free up funds for social spending?
8.11.2008 2:23pm
Lazlo Holyfeld:
I think this situation and the American response is an excellent window into the main problem of American foreign policy in this age. That is the lack of appreciation for the national interests of other, especially large, countries. No matter what one may think of the internal politics or ideology of other nations, most states have rational, recognizable interests.

The history and background of Ossetia and Russian-Georgian relations are complicated and messy and I do not think either side can be characterized as pure victim or pure aggressor. That being said, one must recognize that many (most?) Ossetians do not want to be part of Georgia. Is Russia using the conflict to cement its gains and advantages vis-a-vis Georgia and its allies in the West. OF COURSE. Not doing so would be negligent.

What is all this hand wringing about. Georgia's president gambled. He lost. Big time. Now he has to suffer the consequences.
8.11.2008 2:23pm
Tomwarren:
Crimean War, anyone?
8.11.2008 2:58pm
SATA_Interface:
To Hoosier and the others who noticed Russian astroturfing on blogs - I haven't seen Sputnik post since you posted those comments... Very interesting, Comrades!!
8.11.2008 3:02pm
Brian Mac:
c.f.w.

Sorry, you're not anti-semitic, but you are everything that's wrong with public choice theory. Don't you think that Israel has a hell of an interest in staying on decent tems with Russia (think Iran), or does that just take a back seat to her imperialist tendencies?
8.11.2008 3:43pm
Anon1ms (mail):
To paraphase Bismarck, The Caucasus are not worth healthy bones of single American Marine.

Not that we have any Marines to spare.
8.11.2008 4:07pm
gab:

I haven't seen Sputnik post since you posted those comments... Very interesting, Comrades!!


And notice he picked such a clever name to post under. No one would ever figure him out!
8.11.2008 4:08pm
Brian G (mail) (www):
The thing that always made me laugh is that Bush gets ripped for calling Iran, Iraq, and North Korea for being an "axis of evil" (which they were and 2 still are) and also gets ripped for saying something nice about Putin, which was pure B.S. when he said it and I am sure even Bush knew it.

I am quite sure it would have went over well if Bush said "I looked into Putin's soul and saw an old KGB die-hard who wants to bring back the Soviet Union and get back to the good ol' days of the cold war, communist expansion, and war-mongering. He is a Commie bastard at hear and will always be."
8.11.2008 4:35pm
RPT (mail):
What is the significance that Sen. McCain's campaign lobbies (yes, I know there are technicalities involved, he "resigned" his lobbying practice a few months ago, etc) for Georgia? Does this matter? When he (or Randy S) speaks, is he a candidate or a spokesman for a client? No snark, please, this is, or should be, a serious question.
8.11.2008 5:20pm
Floridan:
Brian G: "I am quite sure it would have went over well if Bush said "I looked into Putin's soul and saw an old KGB die-hard who wants to bring back the Soviet Union and get back to the good ol' days of the cold war, communist expansion, and war-mongering. He is a Commie bastard at hear[t] and will always be."

How about if he had just kept his mouth shut?
8.11.2008 5:40pm
c.f.w. (mail):
"c.f.w.

Sorry, you're not anti-semitic, but you are everything that's wrong with public choice theory. Don't you think that Israel has a hell of an interest in staying on decent tems with Russia (think Iran), or does that just take a back seat to her imperialist tendencies?"

I am not saying Israel is right (from a public choice perspective) in backing Georgia, Israel is simply going that way, perhaps to curry favor with its most significant benefactor, namely the US (esp. Bush and his crowd).

Like ExxonMobil, Israel probably could not be bought for less than a billion or so (which might have been implicitly promised to Israel by the US).

Some Israeli defense contractors (comparable to Blackwater) could probably be brought in by Georgia (with US and Israeli ok) to train and advise (and lead) for $100 million or so (for 3-6 months).

I am not sure the Georgians and Israeli contractors were that far from success in blocking the Roki tunnel.

I suspect the key to victory for Russia was that Russia beat Georgia and its bunch in the intelligence-gathering business (knowing when to mass armor), and the Russians were successful in lulling Georgia and their ilk into ignoring the Russian armor buildup.

Exactly why we (the US) would want to back a "cannot shoot straight" group of Georgians and contractors, for no money for the US, in the short or medium term, is not obvious. McCain seems to think the hundred billion or so needed to back down the Russians would just magically appear, without taxes on this generation (or the next, which cannot yet vote against the latest pissing contest, but will need to pay down the Republican debts).
8.11.2008 5:49pm
Rob Dawson (mail):
RPT: I'd say it just means a lot of wasted money, considering it looks like Georgia is going to cease to exist in a few days, and no one's going to raise a finger about it.
8.11.2008 7:08pm
Dave N (mail):
Rob,

Don't be so cynical. Georgia will be just fine. The Russians will ask Eduard Schevardnadze to lead his people again on a temporary basis; Saakashvili will be forced into exile. The world will shrug. Russian hegemony will be complete without having to actually occupy very much for very long.
8.11.2008 7:26pm
JosephSlater (mail):
Hoosier: Thanks for the kind words. I'm glad you didn't follow up with a question on anything substantive about the War of Jenkins Ear. I remember the name and I think I could put it in the right century, but that's pretty much it.

It is a great, great name for a war, though.
8.11.2008 8:04pm
Smokey:
c.f.w., I think you tipped your hand when you started referring to Americans as "aristocrats."

And hey, folks, how about the wonderful United Nations, set up by that old Russian double agent, Alger Hiss? Supposed to prevent wars and all.

A bully invades a tiny country that's part of the UN, and all you hear from the UN is...

...*crickets*...
8.11.2008 9:10pm
RPT (mail):
Perhaps I was too subtle, and I suppose I should add the comments of one of Wikipedia's editors, corroborated by a textual comparison, that McCain's discussion of Georgia this morning was taken almost verbatim from the Wikipedia entry on that country. The point is that for all practical purposes, when opining on this crisis, John McCain is acting (and Randy S literally is) as an agent of a foreign government. Shouldn't this bother conservatives?!
8.11.2008 9:22pm
TGGP (mail) (www):
I assume you support their right to secede? And the roughly 30% of South Ossetia that is Georgian may then secede from Ossetia?
In fact, I would. I can't speak for others though. I also think Steve Sailer's suggestion is pretty good. His suggestion for Kosovo back in the day is here.
8.11.2008 10:53pm
MarkField (mail):

Hoosier: Thanks for the kind words. I'm glad you didn't follow up with a question on anything substantive about the War of Jenkins Ear. I remember the name and I think I could put it in the right century, but that's pretty much it.

It is a great, great name for a war, though.


Well, I can't resist this. The British government under Walpole adopted a peace policy which pretty much ignored all provocations. This made good sense. When Walpole took over around 1721, England had been fighting major wars for the better part of 30 years and had a (relatively bloodless) revolution thrown in to boot. Walpole wanted to develop trade and restore the economy, which also badly need restoration after the South Sea Bubble and all the military spending.

By the late 1730s, Walpole's enemies were increasingly frustrated at the way he managed to hang on to power. They maneuvered constantly for a way to get him out of office. They latched on to the story of Jenkins' ear -- which actually happened a year or two before the war broke out in 1739 -- and used it to stoke the anger of the public towards Spain. They were able to force a confrontation which led to some desultory fighting. As luck would have it, in 1740 the War of the Austrian Succession broke out. Jenkins' Ear got merged into that and Walpole, by this time old and tired, and never much of a warrior, resigned.
8.11.2008 10:55pm
Smokey:
RPT:
John McCain is acting... as an agent of a foreign government. Shouldn't this bother conservatives?!
Lame, lame, lame.

That the best you got?

Give a little thought to your HE-RO, BHO -- Ahmadinnerjacket's bud. Quit trying to compare a patriot who served to an America-hater. It's embarassing.

And MarkField, that was a fascinating bit of history. Thanks.
8.11.2008 11:08pm
Psalm91 (mail):
Mr. Smokey:

Aside from your usual bluster, how you assume you know anything about the prior poster? You don't of course, and mask your ignorance with diversion. Can't you answer a simple direct question? The question is which country Sen. McCain is serving and you are unable to answer it.
8.12.2008 12:15am
Hoosier:
Joseph and Mark:

What interests me about the European wars of this period is that they were invariably exported to North America. Thus the War of the Austrian Succession becomes King George's War. This continues through the Great War for Empire (French and Indian War). After indepenence, the US fought Britain in the War of 1812, which one traces back to the Napoleonic Wars.

Then, for 100 years, we took a break. Until World War Uno finally re-established the pattern. Now we have Russia and Georgia at war. I say that we can consider both of these to be Asian nations, and thus stay out of it.

Remember "The Princess Bride"?
8.12.2008 12:18am
Hoosier:
"The question is which country Sen. McCain is serving"

Israel, DUH!

Next question.
8.12.2008 12:20am
c.f.w. (mail):
"c.f.w., I think you tipped your hand when you started referring to Americans as 'aristocrats.'"

Hey, if the shoe fits.

McCain is worth say 100 million plus, and is the child of a top Admiral. Served say 26 years on the public payroll. He looks pretty aristocratic to me. See Chesterton's Short History of England about aristocrats (or listen to the free MP3 from Audiovox.com) - Chesterton put together an excellent work, conservative, but not afraid to dump on the Brits as unduly deferential to the aristocrats.

McCain as of 2008 is not McCain as of 67-75. He is now all for whatever helps the ruling elite in the US (such as Georgia's lobbyist), even if it means pushing the US into expenses and risks the US can and should avoid. Even ExxonMobil would look at McCain about Georgia like he has three heads.
8.12.2008 1:38am
c.f.w. (mail):
Audiovox.com - should be Librivox.com: great source for MP3 files in the public domain, read by volunteers. Beats paying $10 per book from the commercail service. Has say 2000 titles. Fiction and non-fiction, short and long, plus poetry and drama.
8.12.2008 1:45am
Smokey:
Psalm91:

McCain discusses the Georgia situation, and that makes him "serving" another country?

O-o-o-o-o... K.

How 'bout when BHO says he's gonna play kissy-face with Iran? Or does that get a pass?
8.12.2008 8:07am
ejo:
it is nice to see how an actual imperialist power intent on asserting its hegemony over other nations acts. given how much the words get thrown around in regard to the US, now the left gets to see the real deal. no waiting for Security Council approval-they just get it on. will the World Court indict Putin? what about international law?
8.12.2008 10:46am
ejo:
note the left's muted response as well-I guess if they can't classify the Georgians as "browns", they swallow their whistle.
8.12.2008 10:49am
MarkField (mail):

What interests me about the European wars of this period is that they were invariably exported to North America. Thus the War of the Austrian Succession becomes King George's War. This continues through the Great War for Empire (French and Indian War). After indepenence, the US fought Britain in the War of 1812, which one traces back to the Napoleonic Wars.


Yeah, the US really was the tail on the British dog.


Then, for 100 years, we took a break. Until World War Uno finally re-established the pattern. Now we have Russia and Georgia at war. I say that we can consider both of these to be Asian nations, and thus stay out of it.


Well, the Austrians used to say that Asia began 3 miles east of Vienna.


And MarkField, that was a fascinating bit of history. Thanks.


I appreciate the thanks. Every so often these random things I know are actually useful.
8.12.2008 12:13pm
bob mullen (mail):
"It is not as if Nato was stirring up secessionist sentiment in the former Yugolavia to create a pretext for later military intervention. " Sez Hoosier.

Well there are parallels. For example the same US ambassador, Miles, was in Yugoslavia when it fell apart as in Georgia during the "Rose Revolution" that
put our Georgetown grad in charge of Georgia.

There is no doubt the Georgians moved first: They put out Mission Accomplished press releases. We trained them well.

As for the speed with which the Russians reacted, think about it: Russia must have hundreds of sleeper agents in Georgia. We would be fools to let them in NATO.
8.14.2008 9:12pm
bob mullen (mail):
"It is not as if Nato was stirring up secessionist sentiment in the former Yugolavia to create a pretext for later military intervention. " Sez Hoosier.

Well there are parallels. For example the same US ambassador, Miles, was in Yugoslavia when it fell apart as in Georgia during the "Rose Revolution" that
put our Georgetown grad in charge of Georgia.

There is no doubt the Georgians moved first: They put out Mission Accomplished press releases. We trained them well.

As for the speed with which the Russians reacted, think about it: Russia must have hundreds of sleeper agents in Georgia. We would be fools to let them in NATO.
8.14.2008 9:12pm
bob mullen (mail):
"It is not as if Nato was stirring up secessionist sentiment in the former Yugolavia to create a pretext for later military intervention. " Sez Hoosier.

Well there are parallels. For example the same US ambassador, Miles, was in Yugoslavia when it fell apart as in Georgia during the "Rose Revolution" that
put our Georgetown grad in charge of Georgia.

There is no doubt the Georgians moved first: They put out Mission Accomplished press releases. We trained them well.

As for the speed with which the Russians reacted, think about it: Russia must have hundreds of sleeper agents in Georgia. We would be fools to let them in NATO.
8.14.2008 9:12pm