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Tentative Thoughts on The Russia-Georgia Ceasefire Agreement:

Russia and Georgia have apparently reached a ceasefire agreement mediated by French president Nicolas Sarkozy. According to CNN, the deal provides for:

Russian agreements to conclude all military operations, return Russian armed forces to the line preceding the beginning of operations and not use force again in Georgia.

In return, Georgia would return its armed forces to their normal and permanent locations.

Both sides would provide free access for humanitarian assistance; and international consideration of the issues of South Ossetia and Abkhazia would be undertaken.

If this agreement holds (a big if), it's a better outcome than I would have expected. Georgia's democratic government will remain in place, despite Russia's previous determination to overthrow it. The Russians will not have destroyed Georgia's oil pipeline to Europe (the most important pipeline in the region that doesn't pass through Russian or Iranian territory). And Russia will renounce future use of force against Georgia and reduce its forces in the secessionist regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia to their prewar levels. I am skeptical that the Russians will fully respect the last two commitments. Nonetheless, the outcome could have been far worse.

Why did Russia accept an arrangement that falls so far short of their maximum objectives? There is no way to know for sure. I suspect that part of the reason is the strong resistance put up by the Georgian armed forces, which although much smaller than Russia's are of fairly high quality thanks in part to US training. The quality of the Russian military remains iffy at best, and Vladimir Putin may have reasoned that complete subjugation of Georgia would be a long and costly process. After all, this is the same Russian army that took years to subdue Chechnya (a task still not quite complete), a much weaker and more isolated adversary than Georgia.

Putin may also have been influenced by the apparent unity of the West in opposing the Russian invasion. France and Germany - key European states that opposed the US over the Iraq War - were largely on the same page with us here. This newfound unity might help cub Russian aggression in the future.

Another potentially positive outcome of the war is the strong solidarity among the Eastern European states in opposing Russia. It is striking that the presidents of Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, and Ukraine took the unusual step of appearing together with Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili at a rally in Tbilisi just after the ceasefire. Ukraine's support is particularly important, since it is the largest and most powerful of Russia's western neighbors. The Eastern European states are too small to oppose the Russians individually. But, with Western support, they can put up a stronger front by sticking together.

None of the above justifies Saakashvili's foolish gamble in providing a pretext for Russian intervention by trying to retake South Ossetia last week. Nor does it somehow make up for the tragic loss of life and destruction of property that has occurred. Nonetheless, if this ceasefire holds and its terms are even roughly obeyed by both sides, we will end up with a better result than might have been expected a few days ago.

ejo:
if it wasn't this foolish gamble by the Georgian president, it would have been the next one. Even if no pretext was provided, Russia could have invented one. Either way, the former territories are now put on notice that Russia is there and not just a potted plant.
8.12.2008 6:58pm
Doc W (mail):
Well, let's hope the cease fire is real and not just a tactical diversion by Putin. A corollary of ejo's post is that Putin could invent another pretext for further military action. From my standpoint, admittedly knowing virtually nothing about the region, if Abkazia and South Ossetia would rather go their own way (which clearly means going the way of Russia), why not? The pipeline doesn't run through those areas anyway.

Russia withou
8.12.2008 7:07pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
I am not sure that Ilya's reading of this agreement as a negative for Russia is correct.

This was a demonstration project, to increase the potential costs of Western actions within Russia's sphere of influence. I suspect that Mr. Putin is quite satisfied that his point has been demonstrated, and has further demonstrations in the works if it becomes clear that it has not been.
8.12.2008 7:13pm
Doc W (mail):
[sorry--I need to keep the heel of my hand away from the click bar]

Russia without its former possessions, especially Ukraine, is even weaker than in Soviet days. The question now is whether the Europeans will stick together and confront Putin as necessary to thwart any imperial ambitions he may have. The US can contribute, but this is the place to draw a line and make it clear to France and Germany especially, maybe Turkey, that they are the powerful democracies closest to the action, and Russia will threaten them long before it threatens us.

Militarily, one wonders whether Putin would have been so bold if the US hadn't shot its wad in Iraq.
8.12.2008 7:16pm
Doc W (mail):
Dilan, I'm not sure what was demonstrated here that was not already known. Russia is what? 50 times the size of Georgia? Of course Putin can impose his will in the short run. But this venture now give the West more incentive to get Ukraine into NATO and move troops there. The Russians are economically weak, technologically backward, and not even all that numerous compared to Western Europe, much less the US. But this is a very good opportunity for us to make clear to the Europeans that they have the responsibility to take the lead.
8.12.2008 7:24pm
Seamus (mail):
Why did Russia accept an arrangement that falls so far short of their maximum objectives?

Uh, 'cause the Russians' real objectives weren't really as far-reaching as the Russophobes have been assuming?
8.12.2008 7:25pm
Gregory Conen (mail):
Excellent. This is a better outcome than I thought was possible.

Sure, the ceasefire may not last. But I feel optimistic about international politics again.
8.12.2008 7:25pm
Opher Banarie (mail) (www):
Cease-Fire: "It's just a piece of paper...."
8.12.2008 7:25pm
matt b (mail):
I am mystified by the insistence that georgia made a foolish gamble--retaking a secessionist province? providing a pretense to russian aggression doesn't mean georgia was ever wrong here. i refuse to legitimate russian claims that they were protecting russian citizens--citizens who were given citizenship for the pretext of covering future russian aggression.
8.12.2008 7:26pm
Joe Kowalski (mail):

The US can contribute, but this is the place to draw a line and make it clear to France and Germany especially, maybe Turkey, that they are the powerful democracies closest to the action, and Russia will threaten them long before it threatens us.

Interestingly enough, the Sarkozy was at the cease fire announcement with Medevedev (sp?) so I'm wondering how much of this agreement was the product of some Sarkozy flavored French charm.
8.12.2008 7:26pm
Houston Lawyer:
Good look on getting Germany and France to stand up to Russia. It is just foolishness to believe that they will intervene unless invading troops cross their own borders.
8.12.2008 7:27pm
Jim at FSU (mail):
I want to know where Ilya heard about levels of resistance from the Georgians. I am very interested to hear how they fared against the Russians and to what degree they were armed with US or former soviet equipment. I saw some AR-15 type weapons with US type optics, but it seemed they were 90 percent equipped with combloc stuff.

The russians seemed to be fielding all of their new infantry toys. It seems like every squad there has a VSS Vintorez and at least a couple of disposable tube rockets. I wouldn't have thought such a specialized piece of equipment would have such widespread application. I wonder if this means there will be 9x39 ammo on the market anytime soon. But I digress.

I realize that the Georgians were faring badly because they were vastly outnumbered, but the overall result indicates that they somehow beat the point spread. Did the Russians outrun their supply train and experience reliability problems? Did they lose too many infantry? Too many IFVs? From what causes? Mines? Rockets? IEDs?

Any links would be welcome.
8.12.2008 7:35pm
gab:
Y'day Ilya said,

"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..."


Can we conclude that the above that Brzezinski (and others) were wrong and overstated Russia's intentions?
8.12.2008 7:39pm
Doc W (mail):
Houston Lawyer, I fear you may be right. Still, the US can't play world policeman forever.
8.12.2008 7:43pm
ronbailey (www):
I'd say Putin accomplished quite a bit, all things considered. Domestically, he comes off looking stronger than ever, and internationally, he managed to both drive a wedge between Georgia and it's western allies AND expose just how weakened the US is on the world stage at the moment.

Make no mistake, Vladimir Putin isn't much more than a bully. But he's a strong bully, and at the moment there isn't anyone around capable of putting him in his place.
8.12.2008 7:52pm
Sam H (mail):
It took Russia months to prepare for this, it wasn't a sudden decision.

I don't know why they would agree to these terms and that bothers me. I don't think the Bear has gone back to sleep.

Doc W

"The US can contribute, but this is the place to draw a line and make it clear to France and Germany especially, maybe Turkey, that they are the powerful democracies closest to the action, and Russia will threaten them long before it threatens us. "

Europe doesn't have much of a military force and their social spending is too high to let them build one. Watch them start begging us to put troops back in Europe.
8.12.2008 7:56pm
ObeliskToucher:

Interestingly enough, the Sarkozy was at the cease fire announcement with Medevedev (sp?) so I'm wondering how much of this agreement was the product of some Sarkozy flavored French charm.

I doubt that charm had much to do with it -- more likely that Sarkozy told Medvedev to remind his boss that any hope Russia has for its present and future membership in the big-boys economic club would depend on his behaving himself...
8.12.2008 7:57pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
Dilan, I'm not sure what was demonstrated here that was not already known. Russia is what? 50 times the size of Georgia? Of course Putin can impose his will in the short run. But this venture now give the West more incentive to get Ukraine into NATO and move troops there. The Russians are economically weak, technologically backward, and not even all that numerous compared to Western Europe, much less the US.

Actually, they control much of Western Europe's energy supplies and have thousands of nuclear weapons. We're the ones who are weak, with our military tied up in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Signing additional countries up into NATO is a huge gamble. NATO is a security guarantee, which means we are promising to go to war with Russia in the event of a confrontation. But we are in no position to go to war with Russia, which means it is a bluff. And if we get called on it, it could weaken our influence in Europe even more than it has already been weakened.
8.12.2008 8:08pm
Anon21:
I am skeptical that Russia took a bath on this deal in any meaningful sense. I didn't believe before and do not believe now that Russia had any intention of deposing Saakashvili. Putin wanted to flex Russia's muscles, and preclude any further efforts to induct states near Russia into NATO. Mission accomplished--that's off the table for the foreseeable future. He's got everyone talking about Russia's political significance, and the perception now is that Russia is setting the agenda in the region. I think the weak condemnation by the West and the undoubtedly valiant efforts of Georgia's armed forces (I'd like to see a source for the claim that they were beating expectations against the much larger and better-equipped Russian military) had little to do with Putin's accession to the ceasefire. He made his point, and he's done. For now.
8.12.2008 8:12pm
David Warner:
Just because Michael Moore is an ass and the Nutroots paranoid doesn't mean that that pipeline isn't crucial to Western (especially European) interests. Perhaps Putin looked into Sarkozy's eyes and saw the specter of France finally regrowing its balls...

I blame Bush.
8.12.2008 8:16pm
Pete Zaitcev (mail) (www):
I don't know just where Dr. Somin found reports of "strong resistance" by Georgians. From the information that I receive, Georgian army is in utter rout. Russians did not have an overwhelming advantage, only a moderate advantage. Nothing like Finns had to face in 1940 anyway. And the result? 2/3rd of the country lost in 3 days, the roads clogged by paniced soldiers trying to escape East and then turn right behind the Lesser Caucausus. Finns must be bursting their bellies laughing.

Russians were taken aback by the Georgian collapse just as much as everyone else. They only fielded some 6,000 in Osetia, and about that much in Abkhasia. The disgraceful performance of Georgian army would allow them to drive into Tbilisi by Thursday, if they only wanted... But then what? They are just not ready for the task of occupying the country.

BTW, the Georgian performance was not much better in 1921 when they faced 11th Army. Wikipedia quotes "fighting", but in reality it took just a week or so.
8.12.2008 8:20pm
Crafty Hunter (www):
I have no doubt that enormous back-channel diplomatic pressure was placed on Russia's leadership (meaning that thug Vladimir Putin) to back off from trying to throttle a nascent democracy *and* to seize control of a vital oil channel to Western Europe. The United States, for example, may have hinted strongly that the Russian military might find itself facing another Afghanistan (i.e., heavy back-channel arms supplies to the Georgian military, and possibly to other militaries in the region), or a fast-track membership in NATO for the Ukraine and much less sensititivity to Russian concerns over the proposed anti-ballistic-missile shield in Poland and elsewhere. A more minor threat might have been a much larger long-term effort by Western Europe to find other energy supplies.

I'm not by any means an expert. These are random thoughts. I fully expected such a result, though. The prestige of NATO and American military power was simply too much on the line for President Bush and NATO to allow Russia to overrun Georgia.
8.12.2008 8:24pm
Sam H (mail):
"The United States, for example, may have hinted strongly ..."

Maybe some F-22s in the area and other signs that we were considering joining in. The Russian military was in awe to what we did to the Russian trained and equipped Iraqi military. They certainly don't want to mess with us.
8.12.2008 8:45pm
Dave N (mail):
RealClearPolitics is headlining the truce as "Russians Victorious as Battle Ends" and "Dictates Humiliating Terms."

The first article is from the Times of London quoted the Russian Foreign Minister as saying Georgian President Saakashvili has to go. The second article, from the British Guardian newspaper, mentions that Georgia must promise not to enter South Ossetia even as peacekeepers, which they done in the past. Additionally the Guardian is reporting that the Russians are demanding elections on secession in the two breakaway Georgia provinces.

In other words, total victory without the bother of occupation.
8.12.2008 9:08pm
Thomas_Holsinger:
Ilya and Sam H.,

IMO Russia's objective is a puppet Georgian government. There are lots and lots of things they can still do do get that, and doubtless they have plans for those which the U.S. is (a) clueless about (because of our wonderful intelligence agencies), and (b) will remain clueless about (ditto).
8.12.2008 9:10pm
Dave N (mail):
The second article, which RealClearPolitics headlined "Dictates Humiliating Terms," is found here.
8.12.2008 9:10pm
TGGP (mail) (www):
Georgia's military has also received training from Israel.

I also don't think Russia's real goal was to depose the Georgian government. Teaching them a lesson was sufficient and it would be more costly to go further. I don't know how Georgian troops actually performed against Russia though, could so more information would be better than assertions.
8.12.2008 10:12pm
Brendan (mail):
Ilya,

By many accounts, the Georgian forces have been getting their ass handed to them. Moreover, the unity of the West and of Eastern Europe did not stop Russia from strategically dominating the opposition forces and the terrain for five days, nor would it have likely stopped the Russians from going farther had they wanted to. Isn't the simplest explanation that the maximal revisionist aims being attributed to Russia are false, and it is not the demonic actor it is being made out to be?

A better interpretation of Russian intentions would run like this: Russia opportunistically took advantage of Georgian stupidity to achieve several foreign policy aims. It has underscored the costs of being its neighbor but not in its orbit; it has driven a stake through the heart of NATO expansion into Georgia, and perhaps even eliminating the push for another round of expansion all together; it has
disrupted an in-your-face American policy in the region, and underscored the non-viability of that policy to the American elite; and it has punished Georgia for disrupting the status quo, and possibly undermined Saakashvili domestically. It never had any intention of pushing hard to dislodge Saakashvili, and certainly not to assert control over Georgia as it does in Chechnya, both of which are tasks whose costs obviously exceed the benefits. In short, it is a normal great power acting how normal great powers behave.
8.12.2008 10:23pm
neurodoc:
"(Saakashvili) has performed some horrific acts toward the people of South Ossetia, some major crimes against humanity have been committed which have been qualified as genocide and ethnic cleansing."

Hearing the Russian ambassador to the UN saying that brings to mind the classic definition of chutzpah - when someone murders both of their parents, then throws themselves on the mercy of the court because they are now an orphan. Except chutzpah is inadequate to characterize the outrageousness of it all.

"...it is a normal great power acting how normal great powers behave."

Heaven help us.
8.12.2008 10:44pm
Sam H (mail):
"A better interpretation of Russian intentions would run like this: Russia opportunistically took advantage of Georgian stupidity to achieve several foreign policy aims."

The problem with that reasoning is that this invasion had to have been planned months ago. You just don't move that size armor force into position overnight.
8.12.2008 10:59pm
Thomas_Holsinger:
Brendan,

If many accounts said you would give me all your money, would you? Both sides are spinning this like mad right now, and lots of outsiders are inventing stuff about the fighting in the hope that people will pay attention to them.
8.12.2008 11:27pm
Albatross (www):
Ilya said:

This newfound unity might help cub Russian aggression in the future.


I know you meant curb, but I kind of like the wordplay in reducing the Russian bear to a cub.
8.12.2008 11:48pm
alan (mail):

the Russians are demanding elections on secession in the two breakaway Georgia provinces.

Wasn't the unresolved secessionist disputes the main French and German objection to giving Georgia a MAP for entering NATO last April?

If the provinces elect to secede and Georgia accepts the results it would remove that roadblock.
8.13.2008 12:10am
Displaced Midwesterner:
I don't think Russia really loses much here. They are almost certainly not going to abide by the terms as such, they will modify them as time goes on, or will pay lip service to them, knowing that the de facto situation is much different. South Ossetia is going to basically come under complete Russian control, Abkhazia probably as well (although Abkhazia, while also Russian-backed and Russian-leaning, has the ability to actually maintain some measure of independence from both Russia and Georgia, which would be their preferred course). Russia has made its presence felt. NATO expansion is at least halted for the time being. Georgia will have to be much more careful now, and many other former Soviet states will also be treading more lightly now.

I don't think Russia was ever really interested in overthrowing Saakashvili or destroying the BTC. They would rather control the latter and destroying it would probably bring more negative consequences than benefits. Its flow is not significant enough to really put any dent into Russia's energy importance to Europe, but actually destroying it would really piss off a lot of people (unlike killing people and bombing buildings, which are irritating, but ultimately, of course, peripheral matters). Russia's petropolitical objectives are achieved by the invasion itself--it is not so much the pipelines already there that Russia is bugged by, but the prospect of even more pipelines bypassing it, whether in Georgia or elsewhere. After this, peace deal or not, investors and countries are going to be really leery about deciding to build a pipe around Russia.

As for overthrowing Saakashvili, I don't think they were ever really after that either. If they can cow him into changing, that is good enough. While they wouldn't mind forcing him out, it didn't seem to be a major objective. It was more of a high bid, thrown out there to spook so the West, so that Russia could look more reasonable when they agreed to not depose Misha, even though that was never really in the works anyway.


A better interpretation of Russian intentions would run like this: Russia opportunistically took advantage of Georgian stupidity to achieve several foreign policy aims.


It wasn't opportunism, really, unless by opportunism you mean they weren't really sure exactly when they would get the chance they had preparing for and setting up for a long time. Russia has been engaging in a large number of activities, such as moving equipment and supplies, rebuilding railroads, moving around troops, etc., in anticipation of just this moment for some time now. They have also been working to goad Georgia into doing something stupid. They were pretty sure Saakashvili was hotheaded enough to eventually rise to the bait, they just weren't sure exactly when that would be. But they were definitely counting on it happening and were well prepared for it.
8.13.2008 1:16am
unhyphenatedconservative (mail):
"But this venture now give the West more incentive to get Ukraine into NATO and move troops there."

Raise your hand if you really want to go to war with a nuclear armed power for nations that don't pose real strategic assets to the U.S. And how do you deal with the moral hazard of smaller nations relying on the promise of their bigger allies and thus acting in irresponsible manners?

While an aggressive Russia is annoying, especially if you take the Administration's Jacobin notion that we're to be running around in a worldwide democratic revolution (except in those nations hosting the Olympics and offering super cheap labor for U.S. corporations) if this Russia has no worldwide ambitions over the USSR, why should we waste precious American blood and treasure?/
8.13.2008 1:20am
Displaced Midwesterner:
It will be interesting to see how this all plays out in the coming months and years. As I just commented on, Russia seems to have achieved its objectives. The question now is whether those objectives will ultimately benefit Russia. While Russia is now definitely able to stand tall and be noticed by the world again, it has also just acquired for itself a massive amount of resentment and ill will. It will be interesting to see how much that erodes the gains it has just made through its resort to old school state violence.
8.13.2008 1:22am
altoids:
Why did Russia accept an arrangement that falls so far short of their maximum objectives?

I think Russia chose to accept a deal now because it is currently at a cost-benefit maximum. My guess is that the relative lack of sophistication in Russian logistics means that combat units can only retain maximum effectiveness for little more than five days. Troops need water, food, and ammunition. Combat vehicles need fuel. After the invasion forces deplete their initial stocks they carried themselves, they require resupply from convoys. These convoys are far more vulnerable to asymmetric attack by the more lightly-armed Georgian forces, fighting on their own ground. Russian forces have pushed into Georgia, without destroying the Georgian army, and as they push deeper into Georgia, the supply lines become longer and thinner.

Instead of committing more Russian forces into a costly long-term operation, the Russian have opted to mount a blitzkrieg without the occupation. Their invasion forces disrupted and routed Georgian forces, then drove hard to key strategic sites. However, with limited logistical endurance, it was in Russia's interest to strike a deal. Russia could have pressed further, but the marginal strategic gains would have small compared to the marginal costs. The Georgian president had promised no surrender, and Russia was simply unwilling to pay that price.

There are probably other reasons - a hardening of world opinion, particularly that of the former Soviet Bloc countries in solidarity with Georgia. But regardless, Russia wins. They have sent a powerful message to their neighbors that the Russian national interest takes precedent over the West, and that the West is powerless to stop them. The West has not contested this message. Russia has earned the fear and respect of Europe and Central Asia at minimal cost, and provided a "splendid little war" for domestic consumption.
8.13.2008 1:33am
Thomas_Holsinger:



I agree with Altoids about the Russian government's motive for the current ceasefire. How long that will last is another matter, and the Russians seem to be positioned to inflict a great deal of economic harm just by refusing transit to and from Georgia. That gives them enormous leverage in arranging a new Georgian government to their liking.
"... with limited logistical endurance, it was in Russia's interest to strike a deal. Russia could have pressed further, but the marginal strategic gains would have small compared to the marginal costs."

The Russians assembled the forces for the attack in secret, but evidently it was so much riskier to assemble the logistics for sustained operations in secret that it wasn't worth trying. And note how the Russians did not stop until they were in a position to blockade Georgia economically.
8.13.2008 2:12am
Roque Nuevo (mail):
I don't believe that Russia is accepting anything less than its maximum objectives. They have no reason to do so at this point, given the lack of response by the NATO nations and the notable absence international anti war movement. Russia got just about what it wanted out of the deal brokered by Sardozky. To start, the status of Ossetia will be determined by future negotiations, which means that it will not be determined by Georgia, within whose borders it lies. Next, the Russian army will remain on Georgian soil, under the guise of peacekeepers. What happens next will likely fall in line with achieving Russia's maximum objectives. Why should they stop now? They have demonstrated the resurgence of their military and their power to call the shots in their historic sphere of influence. I expect them to continue calling the shots as the negotiations begin on the future of Ossetia.

According to what I can gather, Russia's intention is regime change in Georgia. They don't need to invade the capital to achieve this. The psychological blow to the government from this deal will probably be fatal. Russia will have ample means to assure that a more friendly government is installed once the present one falls.

What truly puzzles me is that I don't see what the NATO countries get out of the deal except being able to avoid a deepening crisis. Surely they have some cards to play against Russia, not all of them military. Did they in fact play them and get something out of Putin? The only thing important enough to bargain with, as far as I can see, is Iran. Did Putin agree to abandon Iran in return for a free reign in its "near abroad"? Since these things will be necessarily secret, the only way to find out is to observe the situation in the coming weeks and months. But I suspect that if my fevered speculations are correct, then we'll see some "breakthrough" in the negotiations with Iran and a corresponding lowering of the level of threat in Iraq as well.
8.13.2008 5:34am
M. Simon (mail) (www):
Why dis Georgia get such a good agreement?

Because Russia got its ass handed to it. A few more days of combat and the Russian Army would have been destroyed.

I expect the facts will come out over the coming days and weeks.
8.13.2008 6:52am
M. Simon (mail) (www):
Let me see if I can parse this. Russia met none of its objectives. It will be leaving South Ossetia (in time)and yet they claim that they taught the Georgians a lesson.

Some One Got Taught A Lesson
8.13.2008 8:41am
Floridan:
I certainly hope this episode puts an end to the foolhardy notion that Geogia should be brought into the NATO alliance.

In fact, the whole eastward push of NATO is misguided, in my opinion, and insures a resurgent militarism in Russia.
8.13.2008 9:27am
Brett Bellmore:

Raise your hand if you really want to go to war with a nuclear armed power for nations that don't pose real strategic assets to the U.S.


Me! Me! Call on me!

I don't want the Soviet union to be reassembled. Every piece Russia managed to reattach makes them more dangerous, and I really hate the idea of my son growing up during a new cold war.

We cut up this snake, but forgot to burn the head.
8.13.2008 9:59am
nquotes (mail) (www):
There's always a larger issue than what the media reports in every conflict...the US and Russia are looking at this from two perspectives; the Russian invasion vs the Georgian invasion...now the Russian media is launching their offensive... http://www.enewsreference.com/newspaper/russi.htm
8.13.2008 10:15am
Ainola (mail):
Finns must be bursting their bellies laughing.

Not so much. Today's international edition of the Helsingin Sanomat includes a discussion of Finnish reaction, including this remark from Social Democratic MP Eero Heinäluoma:

"Georgia got plenty of verbal sympathy and encouragement, but the willingness of outside countries to do something appears to be limited. It is good to make note of this in Finland as well. We ultimately have to have the ability to take care of our own affairs."

Remember, it was during the Winter War that the Finns named, perfected, and even mass-produced the Molotov cocktail.
8.13.2008 10:57am
ejo:
what? you mean that ANSWER and the other usual subjects aren't going to be mustering their forces for protests, numbering in the millions, against this naked act of aggression?
8.13.2008 10:57am
davod (mail):
I read somewhere that the Russians must have been planning this for some time because of the logistics involved in getting the armor and troops ready in both separatist locations.

Not to mention having the right sort of aircraft available and having fleet units aid in the attack.
8.13.2008 11:26am
ejo:
I love the "provocation" tags though. Weren't there similar excuses for Russian aggression with Hungary, Czechoslovakia and other lesser aggression in the past? We were provoked, they were oppressing Russian minorities (trucked in after, of course, the countries were brutally invaded and annexed). same old, same old, with the international left nowhere to be seen.
8.13.2008 11:41am
ejo:
since this is a legal site, has the ABA taken a position yet-I notice they issued one a few weeks back calling on Zimbabwe's Mugabe to step down. surely they are on this crisis as well.
8.13.2008 11:42am
unhyphenatedconservative (mail):
Brett,

Do you think that Russia, like the Soviet Union will have world domination on its mind a la the old Soviet Union? Do you really think Putin will launch a Comintern-esque Bureau to start up subversive groups to undermine Western governments with fellow travelers?

I'll grant you that a resurgent bear would be a shitty neighbor for surrounding small countries. But absent an ideology in the Soviet sense, why would we need a new Cold War?
8.13.2008 3:55pm
ejo:
does anyone think that Russia wants a nuclear exchange with the West or even a war with conventional forces? the fact is that a weak response will beget more aggression-we had that pattern before, remember. I can recall Reagan being advised to step lightly, don't rile the Soviets.
8.13.2008 4:12pm
LM (mail):
Cute piece on this from Kathleen Parker on RCP.
8.13.2008 7:38pm
Constantine FIrun (mail) (www):
Um, guys of course Chechnya and Putin's way of resolving that problem was wrong. Like Eltsyn's earlier. But to be honest, Saakashvili did the same mistake even arguing that he has done it because Russians did it in Chechnya earlier. But that's just childish to make mistakes saying that it's ok because others did it. And remembering Chechnya's second conflict in 1999 - do you remember what was first? Chechens separatist's attack on Dagestan which was a normal Russian muslim region that time. Do you remember the number of victims of Dagestan's civilian population? Pretty a lot. So that time, second Chechen campaign was necessary. Full stop. The way it was held - yes, Russian generals and president should be in Haag.

But let's look at the problem from here, from Russia. I'm not a Putin's fan or fan of government politics with high level of corruption etc. By the way, if you want to destroy Russia - let us, Russians, make it for you guys - because we here "love" our country and our citizens even more than any russophobes. Russia will be broken in parts in next 10-15 years due to corruption and indifference to it.

And coming back to Georgia-South Ossetia-Russia Problem. Saakashvili's troops killed damn many people in Ossetia. And you know why? Because even in Soviet times there were national conflicts in Georgia, due to Georgian's hate to Abkhazians and Ossetians, and vice versa. It's like Israel and Palestine. But there is one difference - there are no terrorist attacks in Georgia, and as far as I remember there were none. On the other side, there were plenty of terrorist attacks in Ossetia and Abkhazia with a lot of victims. After such Georgian politic Abkhazia &Ossetia will never be Georgia's regions. Full stop.

And about the strength of Georgian army. That's really funny. They only had a better uniform, which was American. And that's all, other way there were more victims from Russian military forces.

From my point of view - Putin and Saakashvili are very similar, and they both must be in Haag.

About Russian reputation. There is none already. Nobody loves Russia, nobody cares. Russian oligarhs have bought a lot of property in Western World, and Europe is mainly on our oil needle. What sanctions can US make? To forbid our citizens to cross Russian border? Yeah, funny. Russia will be more friendly with China, in which by the way we go without visas. And vice versa.
8.14.2008 4:06am
jgshapiro (mail):

does anyone think that Russia wants a nuclear exchange with the West or even a war with conventional forces?

Does anyone think the West wants to go nuclear against the Russians? They still have a lot of missiles left they can fire back at the West.

That leaves conventional forces. As someone said earlier, don't count on the Germans and the French to volunteer to send in any. We are too stretched in Iraq and Afghanistan to do it by ourselves. Don't think Russia doesn't know this.

The longer we stay in Iraq, the harder it is going to be to check Russia in any meaningful way. Sooner or later we are going to have to decide where our priorities are if we want to be able to deter a more aggressive Russia.
8.14.2008 6:59am
brit (mail):
This is European situation - not American (hence the lack of a British presence) and this should be left entirely to Europeans to work out. I'm not hugely well read on this but it seems to me that that an American-backed state i.e Georgia recklessly provoking a long-standing political adversary of America into conflict serves as a perfect precursor to a much sought-after US military presence in Eastern Europe.
Sound like a familiar story?
8.14.2008 7:00am
CharleyCarp (mail):
This morning's account in the Post suggests that Russia asked for, and got, Georgia's agreement to some continued Russian role in Georgia proper -- for example, Russian soldiers can be stationed in Gori ostensibly to prevent Ossetian irregulars from taking revenge on Georgians, or looting weapons depots left unattended by the retreating Georgian Army, and this is arguably consistent with the agreement.

We'll all see eventually, but for now, I think it's prudent to view accounts of events from interested sources -- governments of Georgia, Russia, US, France; Russian and Georgian press; US presidential campaigns -- as utterly unreliable.
8.14.2008 10:06am
Adam J:
Occupation is pretty rough even when most of the population is on your side, just look at Iraq. And their army isn't even in the same league as ours. Small wonder that Russia got squeemish about the idea of occupation.
8.14.2008 12:43pm
Opher Banarie (mail) (www):
Today's column by Charles Krauthammer in the Washington Post provides suggested actions that US and the West can take against Russia:


1. Suspend the NATO-Russia Council established in 2002 to help bring Russia closer to the West. Make clear that dissolution will follow suspension. The council gives Russia a seat at the NATO table. Message: Invading neighboring democracies forfeits the seat.

2. Bar Russian entry to the World Trade Organization.

3. Dissolve the G-8. Putin's dictatorship long made Russia's presence in this group of industrial democracies a farce, but no one wanted to upset the bear by expelling it. No need to. The seven democracies simply withdraw. (And if Italy's Silvio Berlusconi, who has been sympathetic to Putin's Georgia adventure, wants to stay, he can have an annual G-2 dinner with Putin.) Then immediately announce the reconstitution of the original G-7.

4. Announce a U.S.-European boycott of the 2014 Winter Olympics at Sochi. To do otherwise would be obscene. Sochi is 15 miles from Abkhazia, the other Georgian province just invaded by Russia. The Games will become a riveting contest between the Russian, Belarusan and Jamaican bobsled teams.



All of them sound good to me...who do we need to write to?
8.14.2008 1:56pm
jgshapiro (mail):

4. Announce a U.S.-European boycott of the 2014 Winter Olympics at Sochi. To do otherwise would be obscene. Sochi is 15 miles from Abkhazia, the other Georgian province just invaded by Russia. The Games will become a riveting contest between the Russian, Belarusan and Jamaican bobsled teams.

Couldn't the IOC just vote to move the 2014 Olympics to either Salzburg, Austria or Pyeongchang, S. Korea (the other two finalists for the 1014 games)? They would each still have 8 years to get ready for the games.

The IOC can offer Russia the carrot of getting the Olympics back in Sochi in 2018 if Russia gets out of Georgia and behaves themselves before the IOC chooses the location of the 2018 games.
8.14.2008 2:40pm
spider:
Couldn't the IOC just vote to move the 2014 Olympics to either Salzburg, Austria or Pyeongchang, S. Korea (the other two finalists for the 2014 games)? They would each still have 8 years to get ready for the games.


Actually, more like 5.5 years.

That may be another reason why the Russians didn't want to escalate this too much - they want Sochi to remain calm and pretty for the Olympics.
8.14.2008 3:45pm
Adam J:
I'm all for punishing Russia, but I should note that if the Olympics start becoming a political bargaining tool between Countries then its continuation will become alot more precarious.
8.14.2008 3:50pm
Litigator-London:
Does it not occur to you that the USA under the present administration can hardly criticize Russia for playing the "regime change" game when the USA has been hard at work doing just that elsewhere. Secondly, when the administration disregards institutions like the UN whenever it sees fit, why not Russia too ? Thirdly, the tendency of the USA to treat NATO as its creature has discredited NATO to the point where it is becoming an embarrassment. This is going to be a long Balkans-style issue and it will be around well into the next administration - just pray that it's not McSame at the helm.
8.14.2008 3:50pm
Opher Banarie (mail) (www):
Litigator-London: It's heartening to know that appeasement is still the standard of diplomacy in the UK. I wouldn't want to bother studying any changes in the politics there - I've got my hands full here. Exactly which Democrat, if elected POTUS, would say during an inaugural address "...[A]sk not what your country can do for you - ask what you can do for your country"?
8.14.2008 5:20pm
Opher Banarie (mail) (www):
...if the Olympics start becoming a political bargaining tool...

"IF"? You should check out what's happened during the modern Olympics. Maybe read Herr Hitler's comments in 1936.

And don't forget about the African boycott of 1976, the US boycott of 1980 and the USSR boycott of 1984.

If I remember correctly, the Ancient Olympics required all competitors to be naked so that no national emblems would affect the scoring. Maybe the Modern Olympics should bring that back.
8.14.2008 5:30pm
Michael B (mail):
Being willing to accept Putin's and Russia's expansionist play against Georgia's sovereignty, the left is to be admired for their newfound composure, restraint and tolerance. No Putin=Hitler/Stalin agitprop, no protests staged at Russian embassies around the world, no protests staged at Georgian embassies in support of their sovereignty, no "Nuremberg or Nothing" queries concerning Putin and other Kremlin officials, no talk of a potential "quagmire" in the Caucasus, no historical references to Russian/Soviet escapades in former eastern block buffer zone countries such as Czechoslovakia or Hungary, no Robert Altman styled Hollywood figure indicating "This present government in Russia I just find disgusting ... When I see a Russian flag flying, it's a joke."

Admirable restraint, admirable composure, admirable tolerance; the self-admiring political class applying due diligence, once again, in world affairs.
8.14.2008 11:35pm
Michael B (mail):
Should have tipped the hat to Z-word.
8.15.2008 12:15am
R.E.L.:
Di Lorenzio is an economics professor not an historian. Here's a useful reveiw of one of his works on Lincoln:

In fact, DiLorenzo's "new look" shows us nothing new. From the time of Jefferson Davis's The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government and Alexander Stephens's A Constitutional View of the Late War Between the States, the anti-Lincoln columns have marched over and over the same tired ground. Edgar Lee Masters's Lincoln the Man, which DiLorenzo quotes approvingly, was a breathless compilation of every slander ever made against Lincoln. But if DiLorenzo's message is old hat, the incompetence of the messenger is surely unprecedented. The book is a compendium of misquotations, out-of-context quotations, and wrongly attributed quotations — one howler after another, yet none of it funny."
8.15.2008 5:31pm
Opher Banarie (mail) (www):
Just out from AP:


TBILISI, Georgia - Georgia's president grudgingly signed a truce with Russia Friday, even as he denounced the Russians as invading barbarians and accused the West of all but encouraging them to overrun his country. A stone-faced Condoleezza Rice, standing alongside, said Russian troops must withdraw immediately from their smaller neighbor.

President Bush talked tough, too, accusing the Russians of "bullying and intimidation," but neither he nor Rice said what the U.S. might do if Russia ignored them.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev's press office had no information Friday night on whether he had signed the cease-fire agreement.


It appears the US has forced Saakashvili to accept these terms. The next step is up to Putin.
8.15.2008 6:41pm
Opher Banarie (mail) (www):
And now this from AEI:


As the United States and its allies in Western Europe craft their policies in response to Russia's recent aggression, they would be wise to understand the gravity and extent of Russian objectives in Georgia. "I don't think that this is over," concluded [Frederick] Kagan. "The Russians are going to try very hard to engineer [Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili's] removal from power, and we need to make it very clear that that is unacceptable."
8.15.2008 6:50pm
Michael B (mail):
Victor Davis Hanson in a similar vein, excerpt:

"Russia invades Georgia. China jails dissidents. China and India pollute at levels previously unimaginable. Gulf monarchies make trillions from jacked-up oil prices. Islamic terrorists keep car bombing. Meanwhile, Europe offers moral lectures, while Japan and South Korea shrug and watch — all in a globalized world that tunes into the Olympics each night from Beijing."

[...]

"... it is easy for self-appointed global moralists to complain that terrorists don’t enjoy Miranda rights at Guantanamo, but it would be hard to do much about the Russian military invading Georgia's democracy and bombing its cities.

"Al Gore crisscrosses the country, pontificating about Americans’ carbon footprints. But he could do far better to fly to China to convince them not to open 500 new coal-burning power plants.

"It has been chic to chant "No blood for oil" about Iraq's petroleum — petroleum that, in fact, is now administered by a constitutional republic. But such sloganeering would be better directed at China's sweetheart oil deals with Sudan that enable the mass murdering in Darfur."

h/t Solomonia
8.15.2008 7:38pm