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Prof. Kenneth Anderson on Russia and Georgia,

at Opinio Juris. Though I was born in the Russian Empire (in what's now the Ukraine, but Kiev was a heavily Russified city at the time), I haven't kept up on the situation there; I therefore can't speak from any real experience. But while my instinctive sense in the Russian-Georgian conflict is that the Russians are in the wrong, I think it's important not to assume that therefore the Georgians are in the right, or ought to get what they want. And my sense is that the talk of letting Georgia into NATO is likely quite misguided: It's not clear to me that it's in our national interest to get into this fight, and I suspect that our participation will on balance not be good for anyone (and certainly not for us). Prof. Anderson, who seems to have a good deal of knowledge on the subject, likewise thinks that the Georgians ought not be allowed to actually govern Abkhazia and South Ossetia. And while for the reasons I mentioned I can't speak with any confidence about whether he's right, his arguments seem to me much worth considering. I'll of course be happy to link to thoughtful and detailed responses to Anderson's arguments.

Thanks to InstaPundit for the pointer.

Benjamin Davis (mail):
My son just got back from Paris. The one thing I asked him to bring is a french weekly called the Canard Enchaine (literally Chained Duck - Duck is slang for newspaper - it is a french thing). He brought me the one from last Wednesday and already in the first two minutes I have found out two amazing things.

1. Georgia-Russia war - did anyone know that US officers were aiming the rocket launchers for the Georgians when they were shooting into the capital of South Ossetia. These American officers were also counseling the Georgians to attack. DID ANY OF YOU SEE THIS IN ANY US PAPER THIS PAST WEEK? I am curious. The article says that Washington knew what Sakashvilli was going to do and did not stand in the way. Sources are in the French military hierarchy. Over the years I have found the Canard has the real scoop on so many things.

2. The Socialists in Paris are still trying to figure out why Obama did not visit with them when he was in Paris. Obama met with the opposition in Germany and the United Kingdom. Their conclusion? Obama's counsel on the European trip is a guy named Philip Gordon, ex-Director of European Affairs for the Clinton National Security Council. Gordon is apparently very taken with the French President - Nicolas Sarkozy. He translated Sarkozy's book into English for the United States. Others say it was the Paris Mayor who was against it. He is named Delanoe, and was against it because he did not want the Paris City Hall being turned into a fundraising venue. Politicians shocked at fundraising.

Any way, this paper is one of the real gems of journalism worldwide with so much dirty laundry being washed out by people in the know.

Best,
Ben
8.24.2008 5:23pm
TDPerkins (mail):

1. Georgia-Russia war - did anyone know that US officers were aiming the rocket launchers for the Georgians when they were shooting into the capital of South Ossetia. These American officers were also counseling the Georgians to attack. DID ANY OF YOU SEE THIS IN ANY US PAPER THIS PAST WEEK?


That is the first I've heard of it and I think not especially credible.


2. The Socialists in Paris are still trying to figure out why Obama did not visit with them when he was in Paris.


I'm shocked he met with any European socialists at all, and meeting with more of them certainly wouldn't be better for him. That reinforces a definition of him which he needs to shed.

Yours, TDP, ml, msl, &pfpp
8.24.2008 5:53pm
Jay Myers:

did anyone know that US officers were aiming the rocket launchers for the Georgians when they were shooting into the capital of South Ossetia.

No, but that's only because it didn't happen.


These American officers were also counseling the Georgians to attack.

If so, then they have changed their tune. http://tinyurl.com/5doz7b


Sources are in the French military hierarchy.

The only thing for which I would trust them as a source are STDs.
8.24.2008 6:03pm
Jim at FSU (mail):
That seems doubtful to me.

I was under the impression that those rockets are not really aimed in the traditional sense of the word. You point them in the general direction of a grid square and let fly. It isn't like artillery where you have a small area of effect and you dial in subsequent shots based on reports from ground observers. The whole rack gets launched in one big whoosh and that's it. One of the main assumptions with such weapons is that whoever is fired upon will have counter-battery radar and will be returning fire, probably before your rounds have landed. The idea is to move immediately after launching to prevent this.

Modern american/nato MLRS are GPS/inertial guided and do all sorts of fancy stuff with submunitions, but this is 1970s/80s era soviet stuff. Sledgehammer rather than swiss watch approach.

From the reports of "dozens killed" by the Georgian attack, I'm guessing any aiming help that was given didn't amount to much.
8.24.2008 6:12pm
Benjamin Davis (mail):
I trust the Canard over all the chauvinism expressed in these responses.
Best,
Ben
8.24.2008 6:14pm
Bama 1L:
Le Canard Enchaîné is a weekly magazine of political satire. You shouldn't expect everything in it to be true. It's like The Onion: its value is not contained in the truth of what it reports.

European social democrats seem genuinely to think Obama is one of them. The way American candidates rush to the extremes before the nomination and to the center afterward baffles them; they fall for it every time.
8.24.2008 6:14pm
Benjamin Davis (mail):
The Canard is not the Onion - it is far more. I have read it for 20 years. The Canard provides serious news, humor and all kinds of revelations that never come until much later in the mainstream press of France and other countries. I would love someone to ask a question of this at a Defense department or State department briefing.
Best,
Ben
8.24.2008 6:22pm
Benjamin Davis (mail):
Read the tinyurl. Thanks. I guess none of you remember the Green Beret advisors in Vietnam in the Kennedy years who we found out later were playing much more direct roles than the military or the US government let on at the time. I guess the five year mission to get to NATO standards does not include anyone who would do either thing claimed. Come on folks! If you believe that official line, you are far more credulous than any reader of the Canard.
Best,
Ben
8.24.2008 6:28pm
Toby:
One of the most effective and long reaching policies of Stalin was to re-draw lines to split up strong ethnic groups (see Moldavia, Roumania) into separate states and to combine fractious groups into single states. It was a deliberate policy to make each state unable to stand on its own.


This was followed, of course, with encouraging enough ethnic Russian migration as possible into any state that was still homogenous. See First Cyberwar (Estonia).

Georgia is one of the combined fractious ones...Russia's game is support and peel off each ethnic minority, one at a time, creating mini-Chechnya's for Georgia to deal with. Few if any countries look good when dealing with same as there are few good options.
8.24.2008 6:51pm
Thomas_Holsinger:
We would be much better off if Georgia was part of Russia than a member of NATO. Georgians are the reason for this.
8.24.2008 7:01pm
Bama 1L:
Sorry, I think I gave the impression that nothing in Le Canard Enchaîné is true. Some of it is; the paper has broken several major government scandals. But it also runs stories that are not true at all, like excerpts from Carla Bruni's secret diary.

I would be very surprised that Le Canard discovered a foreign scandal. Le Canard finds scandals in France because the mainstream media does no investigation and does not ask politicians and officials tough questions, ever. The mainstream media basically collects and reports elite opinion, and when there is a consensus of elites on an issue, you never hear that there might be a problem. French political elites generally get along and tolerate each others' lifestyles, so no one engages in much scandalmongering. It's much more fun for everyone in power, left and right, if we can all have mistresses and cheat on our taxes. Thus the President of France can be a de facto bigamist or a huge crook but doesn't suffer any political damage. Etc.

I don't see much reason to believe this story. Le Canard does not have the resources to do a foreign investigation, and also you'd have the American and British media--which do look into things like this--also after the story. What Le Canard is claiming is that some French military sources say the American military was involved. That's not very good sourcing. Of course, French journalists are a little laxer about sourcing than we are used to, and this is Le Canard, so there you go. (And can the Georgians really not aim their own rockets?)
8.24.2008 7:02pm
Elliot123 (mail):
"If you believe that official line, you are far more credulous than any reader of the Canard."

One does not have to be credulous to ask for reasonable backup for a claim. So far, I haven't seen any. Do you have anything to add?
8.24.2008 7:15pm
Bruce:
NATO is a mutual self-defense treaty. It obligates the members to defend each other in case of attack. Georgia is a nice democratic little state, but I think it's not so crucial to our interests that we should promise to engage in a war with Russia if it is attacked again. I'm guessing we wouldn't, so the real danger is that we'd devalue NATO membership.
8.24.2008 7:18pm
sputnik (mail):
Benjamin, you are correct.
I will not vouch for direct aiming, but our military specialists and advisers were at the scene in Georgia...
Eugene, how old were you when you left USSR?
8.24.2008 7:20pm
Benjamin Davis (mail):
Sputnik thanks for that but it is the Canard.

Bama 1l and Elliott123

The tinyurl piece cited above says that French advisors are also in Georgia over the past five years. So to me, members of the French military elite would be privy to what was happening on the ground in Georgia through their subordinates there - so the story does not just have a Paris salon pedigree.


As to the US press and standards, well we have seen them bend over before haven't we as in the warmup to the War in Iraq.

Bama 1L is right about much of the humor stuff and so if that was the Onion type point you are making, I take my comment back as far as that part of what the Canard does.

So you can see I am a Canardophile and I trust em to have got a scoop like this. Now watch how the US socalled standards will keep Americans in the dark about this - keep somatizing us.

Best,
Ben
8.24.2008 7:55pm
Eugene Volokh (www):
Sputnik: I was seven, so I certainly can't offer any first-hand knowledge, from then or from now. But that we have military specialists and advisers in a friendly country is hardly particularly telling.
8.24.2008 8:03pm
pluribus:
Bruce:

NATO is a mutual self-defense treaty. It obligates the members to defend each other in case of attack.

Does the NATO treaty obligate members to defend another member that has started or provoked a war? If so, the implications are frightening.
8.24.2008 8:13pm
Benjamin Davis (mail):
Volokh - the passive vision of military specialists and advisers implicit in your comment is understandable but folks you simply seem to misremember all of those military specialists and advisers we had in places all over South America and lots of other places at various points in our history over the past 50 odd years.

And we usually find out later rather than sooner about their role in wars and coups and other stuff being more significant than was let on at the time.

I know - we are perfect - and would never stoop to turning a blind eye to a friendly nation doing something and wouldn't have our soldiers involved in that.

Oh yes, also we do not torture or have our soldiers torture.

I hope what I am saying is causing people unease - to question and to seek more information about the American role in what is happening. It was way too convenient for this election cycle to have a nice little heat up in Georgia for this or that person in the election cycle to take a benefit from it. Am I cynical? Absolutely.

I do believe I saw an operation down in Colombia where McCain was tipped off about it and there was a big hullabaloo about it. Or was I the only person who saw that stuff? Oh yes, there were US military advisers there too.

In a battle for the power, these folks in power and near power are ruthless. In America and around the world.

Just trying to break up the ambient "official version" that persons appear to have swallowed here. That is the thing I love about the Canard. They break up the bonhomie all the time.

Best,
Ben
8.24.2008 8:25pm
Oren:

NATO is a mutual self-defense treaty. It obligates the members to defend each other in case of attack.


The NATO treaty does not obligated any country to military action. Now, in practice this might not be the case (although I don't imagine the US going to war over Lithuania) but it is in the text:
The Parties of NATO agreed that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all. Consequently they agree that, if such an armed attack occurs, each of them, in exercise of the right of individual or collective self-defense will assist the Party or Parties being attacked, individually and in concert with the other Parties, such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force, to restore and maintain the security of the North Atlantic area.


TH says:

We would be much better off if Georgia was part of Russia than a member of NATO. Georgians are the reason for this.
Not after W made a big stink about it (they named a major boulevard after him) -- it would destroy our credibility. Maybe we shouldn't have boosted Georgia to begin with, but now we've made our bed.
8.24.2008 8:31pm
Kirk:
I hope what I am saying is causing people unease
Oh, it is, it is--just not for the reason you hope.
8.24.2008 8:35pm
Bill McGonigle (mail) (www):
Didn't England get itself into WWII by promising to protect Poland?

The trick with NATO is that if we deny a country like Georgia membership because of its unimportance, that's an invitation for the KGB Russia to take it.

I suspect this all means NATO has outlived its usefulness.
8.24.2008 8:35pm
fortyninerdweet (mail):
Excellent catch, sir. Too bad a probably well-meaning person took over so-many comments. Prof. Anderson's POV seems quite compelling, and on first glance not at all intuitive. I'm glad you 'conspired' to bring it here.
8.24.2008 9:12pm
Elliot123 (mail):
"So you can see I am a Canardophile and I trust em to have got a scoop like this. Now watch how the US socalled standards will keep Americans in the dark about this - keep somatizing us."

So, who's the credulous one?
8.24.2008 9:12pm
Duncan Frissell (mail):
The Red Army ain't what it used to be. A few ocean cargo containers of Javelins donated to Georgia and the other targets of Russian imperialism. Problem solved.
8.24.2008 9:16pm
frankcross (mail):
Well, it's certainly possible about the U.S. military advisers. But it seems doubtful, because the US was openly opposed to the Georgian action in South Ossetia. The source is not the newspaper itself, how did it know? Did it source the story? And if you think US media is in the tank for the Bush Administrationi (which seems doubtful), how about other European press reports. Did any of them have the story?
8.24.2008 9:26pm
PETN Sandwich (mail):
Georgia-Russia war - did anyone know that US officers were aiming the rocket launchers for the Georgians when they were shooting into the capital of South Ossetia. These American officers were also counseling the Georgians to attack.

Taken literally that is quite an incredible claim.
8.24.2008 10:01pm
Public_Defender (mail):
Perhaps we should offer all of the ex-Soviet republics roughly the the same deal we have with Taiwan--we will protect you as long as you don't stupidly antagonize your really powerful neighbor.
8.24.2008 10:05pm
Doc W (mail):
For starters, I share Ben's cynicism regarding pronouncements of the US government. Wish it weren't so.

Our country's founders counseled against foreign entanglements. History has proved them right. Our meddling causes more problems, which then become excuses for more meddling--like government programs in general, come to think of it.

On the other hand, the past is past and we have to deal with the world as we find it today. Russia is washed up as a superpower. Its population is only around 150 million, and its GNP is dwarfed by major western democracies individually--despite its oil. Yes, it has nukes--assuming they still work and can be found--but so do we. If the western powers so choose, they can assemble the military might to crush Russian conventional forces just about anywhere.

But if Russia could re-conquer the old Soviet empire, it would double its population and economic power. Unlike global threats of the past--Japan and Germany--Russia has not become a liberal democracy and in fact seems to be devolving back into deep authoritarianism. There would be some real value in closing the door on any attempt by Putin to restore the empire and regain superpower status.

Problem is, the US has already shot its wad in Iraq and Afghanistan. We are way too stretched, militarily and financially. To continue to try to impose our will around the world will leave us bankrupt, financially and spiritually. And we shouldn't have to. Prior to the Cold War, Russia's huge army was regularly defeated by the other European powers. There is no reason why the major European democracies can't deploy enough military force to repulse any significant land grabs by Putin. There is no reason, similarly, why Japan can't build its military sufficiently to defend itself and other far eastern democracies against any Chines moves. The US can play a role, but we should not have to take the lead and carry the main load. The real question is how to get these other countries to step up. It will require a change in our foreign policy, that's for sure. Georgia might have been a good place to start.
8.24.2008 10:16pm
Bob from Ohio (mail):
Anderson seems to have heard something similar to Davis:


I am delighted to hear - but have no way to confirm - that US military advisors were helping target Russian units.


Let's assume its true. A few advisers aiming rockets lure the Russians into a strategic error. Seems like a good plan.
8.24.2008 10:31pm
ReaderY:

Does the NATO treaty obligate members to defend another member that has started or provoked a war? If so, the implications are frightening.


It does. And the only defense to this vulnerability is to be very careful and judicious about who is admitted into the treaty, not admitting any country unless the existing members are convinced it has a stable and reasonably like-minded government which won't get the whole alliance into a war.

This assumption has proved wrong several times. A particularly notable and problematic example involves Greece and Turkey, who are historical enemies who have have intermittantly hostile to each other, and have come very close to getting into a war with each other several times while both were members of NATO.

The whole issue was one of the arguments for a go-slow approach to NATO expansion, particularly in historically quarrelsome regions like the Balkans and in the newly independent former Soviet republics
8.24.2008 10:32pm
Visitor Again:
The very article that Eugene cites confirms what Ben read in his French journal. The gulli8bility of people is astounding--still unprepared to accept anything that does not fit their preconceptions about the USA. The same intuition that leads one to conclude Russia is always wrong is that which led the same people to conclude the USA was right to intervene in Iraq. It's azmazing how little we learned from the Viet Nam War. It seems each generaton has to makes its own mistakes, even if they're the same ones.
8.24.2008 10:52pm
Elliot123 (mail):
Visitor,

I read the article and missed the confirmation you mention. That doesn't mean it wasn't there; maybe be it is, and it didn't register with me. Can you cite where Ben's claim is confirmed in the article?

The difficulty in presuming the US is wrong and foreign accusers right is that we suspend our critical reasoning skills in favor of accepting claims which have not been adequately demonstated to be true.

I think we saw an example of that recently when TIME magazine reported the accusation that US Marines massacred Iraqi civilians in Haditha. The military court dismissed all charges against seven of the eight accused, and the remaining Marine is awaiting trial on a substantially reduced charge.

But, when the accusations were leveled, we heard arguments similar to what Ben offers: Mai Lai happened, Abu Ghraib happened, and the US government lies, so that means Haditha happened, too.
8.24.2008 11:42pm
frankcross (mail):
The world's most gullible people are the self-proclaimed cynics. They decide they will be cynical about something (usually the government) and then become the most naive, gullible people about any information that criticizes the object of their cynicism. Like the 9-11 truthers.
8.24.2008 11:56pm
sputnik (mail):
Eugene,
That make it a little more clear.
Ukraine and Russia did not have much problem living together and the only guys who tried to emphasize any difference were western Ukrainians, who , btw, in large numbers during WWII were willing accomplices of Germans especially in regards to the Jewish population.
You have heard about Babiy Yar and other places of extermination of Jews. Germans, being so clean and squeamish had Ukrainians to perform the final job...

The Crimea was also the lifelong territory belonging to Russia, until Khrushchev decided to PRESENT it to Ukraine

I also support the desire of Ossetians and Abkhazians for independence.
So in short, professor Volokh, not everything what Russians do is necessarily wrong.
They, after all, managed to give your parents good education, no?
8.25.2008 12:31am
Dave N (mail):
The problem is not to assume that the U.S. can do no wrong (I am certainly not so presumptuous) but the assumptions by Ben Davis, sputnik, and Visitor Again that the United States can do no right.
8.25.2008 1:27am
Mocha Java (mail):
Eugene Volokh:
Though I was born in the Russian Empire (in what's now the Ukraine, but Kiev was a heavily Russified city at the time)


Just curious, my father was born in 1907 in a little village near Kiev in the Russian Empire and also came here when he was seven. Since you were born in 1968, is there something I ought to be reading into your statement?
**************
I think we have a diplomacy by other means problem here rather than one of international law. I don't see us engaging Russia directly and Georgia in any form cannot stand up to them.
To me, this is a classic example of a bridge too far...
8.25.2008 1:27am
Displaced Midwesterner:
I am skeptical about this supposed revelation of American military advisers being involved. Main reason: it was pretty clear that Russia was poised to invade and that it was ramping up its provocations in an effort to goad Georgia into doing something that would give Russia a pretext to invade. The US did not gain anything by this situation and seem taken quite off guard by it. It would have been incredibly stupid for US military advisers to be trying to get Georgia to launch an attack on Tskhinvali. It will take a lot more than this supposed scoop to convince me given that.
8.25.2008 1:56am
LM (mail):
Thomas_Holsinger:

We would be much better off if Georgia was part of Russia than a member of NATO. Georgians are the reason for this.

On its face this seems pretty simplistic. Which of the other reasons Anderson posits do you dispute, and why?
8.25.2008 2:23am
BGates:
I will not vouch for direct aiming, but our military specialists and advisers were at the scene in Georgia
I'm not sure what the Russia booster who calls himself "sputnik" means by "our".
8.25.2008 2:38am
Dmitry:
As I lived in USSR, the Georgia was one of the most corrupted republics after Middle Asia republics. My old friend lives in Tbilisi, and, while critical of Saakashvili, tells several interesting things. E.g. after Saakashvili came to power, their road police was disbanded completely, and then recreated from scratch. The point is that they do not take bribes now, unlike in Russia (where you usually pay directly to the officer for any traffic violation). It seems that he succeeded to transform georgian mentality drastically, much closer to the western one. And I suspect this is one of the real reason of the Russia's hate toward Georgia: russians might ask themselves why they have to bribe officials every time they need them.

Also, taking into account what was happening right before the war, I do not think Saakashvili had much of choice
Timeline of events from Georgian MFA
8.25.2008 3:59am
AnonLawStudent:
BobFromOhıo-

What ıs the source of your Anderson quote? From the artıcle lınked by Prof. Volokh

I would not be unhappy to hear (but have no reason to know anything about it, let me be clear) that US military advisors were advising or assisting Georgian forces in the fighting.

As to the accusatıons of U.S. offıcers assıstıng the Georgıans - so what? U.S. mılıtary assıstance goes a long way toward promotıng peace and polıtıcal stabılıty by ıncreasıng the effectıveness of ındıgınous forces. A rag-tag mılıtıa ısn't much of an obstacle to Russıa (or Al Queda). On the other hand, a smaller number of Amerıcan-traıned and equıpped personnel can provıde effectıve deterrent.

My predıctıon (and hope) for the future - the smaller natıons on Russıa's perıphery wıll purchase lıght antı-tank and antı-aırcraft weapons ın large quantıtıes, plus Western mılıtary assıstance. Useless offensıvely, but such a force would sıgnıfıcantly ıncrease the cost to Russıa durıng thıs type of *peacekeepıng* ıncursıon.
8.25.2008 5:13am
Angus:
A few points to consider:

1. NATO outlived its usefulness as of 1991. It existed for one and only one reason -- to oppose the Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact.

2. Russia was wrong to send troops into Georgia proper, but Georgia was wrong to send troops into Ossetia. Ossetia declared its independence in 1991 and essentially won, forcing Georgia to sign a ceasefire in 1992 and agree to Russian peacekeepers in the region.

3. The initial statements by Bush and especially McCain were stupid and inflammatory, especially since Georgia was the initial aggressor in this.

4. I believe that Ossetia actually attacked Georgia (as Georgia claims) in the same way I believe that Poland actually attacked Germany in 1939 (as Hitler claimed).
8.25.2008 9:14am
Anderson (mail):
Since you were born in 1968, is there something I ought to be reading into your statement?

Same thought. "Soviet Empire" might better suit the chronology and Prof. EV's opinion. The "Russian Empire" is usually taken to have ended in 1917.
8.25.2008 10:00am
Benjamin Davis (mail):
Going to start teaching today so will have to step away for awhile. A friend John Tobin sent me some analysis below which I sent along. Before we get in knee-jerk reaction to something from the socialists, please do me the courtesy of reading it.

Ben,


Given the apparently pervasive US influence in the Georgian military noted by the NY Times in my excerpt below of Barry Grey's "Bush escalates confrontation with Russia over Georgia," published by the World Socialist Website here on Aug. 12 at here, such direct involvement of US forces would not be a surprise. As to US foreknowledge of the Georgian attack, see "The New York Times covers for US role in Georgia crisis," published Aug. 16 at here.



Also, you may be interested in a very good, detailed analysis of the competition over pipelines and access to oil in the Caspian region and how this helps to explain current US policy vis a vis Georgia and Russia, and Russia's response. That piece, also on the WSWS, is entitled "US oil pipeline politics and the Russia-Georgia conflict," was published on Aug. 21, at here. Here's the excerpt:

By Barry Grey
12 August 2008
It is inconceivable that Saakashvili did not review in detail with Rice his plans for a military assault on South Ossetia. Georgia—which is totally dependent on US military, diplomatic and financial support—could not take such a portentous action without informing Washington in advance and securing American sanction.

Preparations for the attack would have been far advanced when Rice met with Saakashvili a month ago. The Georgian military, moreover, is dominated from top to bottom by US military advisers.

The United States has been pouring military aid into Georgia ever since the US-led air war against Serbia in 1999, and the pace and scale of American military aid have accelerated since Washington engineered the so-called “Rose Revolution” that brought Harvard-educated Saakashvili to power in early 2004.

An article in Monday’s New York Times describes “a Pentagon effort to overhaul Georgia’s forces from bottom to top.” The article states: “At senior levels, the United States helped rewrite Georgian military doctrine and train its commanders and staff officers. At the squad level, American marines and soldiers trained Georgian soldiers in the fundamentals of battle.
8.25.2008 10:42am
bornyesterday (mail) (www):

Eugene,
That make it a little more clear.
Ukraine and Russia did not have much problem living together and the only guys who tried to emphasize any difference were western Ukrainians, who , btw, in large numbers during WWII were willing accomplices of Germans especially in regards to the Jewish population.
You have heard about Babiy Yar and other places of extermination of Jews. Germans, being so clean and squeamish had Ukrainians to perform the final job...

The Crimea was also the lifelong territory belonging to Russia, until Khrushchev decided to PRESENT it to Ukraine


/facepalm

How far back are we going to go in an effort to establish nationalities and boundaries of countries? My great grandparents immigrated to the US from the Russian Empire from towns that are now in Ukraine, but they were of Polish heritage (spoke it, ate it, etc). The populations of Eastern Europe were so reduced by war, repopulation efforts by both the Germans and the Russians that claiming specific areas as "historically" belonging to any country over there is an effort in futility and ethnocentric arrogance.

More directly, the history of Russian vs Ukrainian conflict extends back for quite some time. Basically since Kievan Rus lost political and social dominance of the territory that became Russia to the czarist monarchy.
8.25.2008 10:44am
Anderson (mail):
How far back are we going to go in an effort to establish nationalities and boundaries of countries?

Have the Mongols formally relinquished their claim to Russia?
8.25.2008 11:11am
Kenneth Anderson (mail) (www):
Hi - Kenneth Anderson here. sorry, I amended the quote BobfromOhio references, but put the amend note at the very bottom of the post. I don't have any information about US advisors actually engaging in advising in combat; I was actually referring to Ben's comment, and I realized that it was unclear and suggesting that I had some independent source of information on that, which I do not. Since then, I've asked some friends here in DC who might know something but no one has told me anything useful. However, I am more interested in the overall question of the policy stance that the US should take toward the territories themselves than I am about the question of whether US advisors were directly involved in advising during the hostilities. What should US policy be?
8.25.2008 11:22am
nutbump (mail):
You guys are talking about nothing.
Here is simple thing.
U.S. is weak
Russia is strong.
Russia have kicked U.S. butt.

But have to remember who made Russia strong - it is a George Bush and company.
U.S. government had taken taxpayer's money than gave it to corporations.
Corporation in turn, had invested those money to China and Russia and other dictatorships.

And now we have got what we wanted.
Russia has kicked U.S. arss.
8.25.2008 11:37am
bornyesterday (mail) (www):

Have the Mongols formally relinquished their claim to Russia?


Exactly
8.25.2008 11:48am
Thomas_Holsinger:
LM &Professor Anderson,

Political maturity cannot be taught by advisers. We should not be a member of any alliance which includes Georgia, as that would make us a hostage to their recklessness.
8.25.2008 12:08pm
ejo:
one could say the same thing about any number of trumped up invasions done by the Russians in the past. We were provoked is what they always say. We were protecting ethnic Russians is what they always say. They followed the same script in Hungary, Czechoslovakia and all sorts of other locales. To say the invasion of Georgia was in response to Georgian aggression when you had the army camped on the border ready to go isn't cynicism, it comes close to simply being a flat out lie. calling oneself cynical overstates the level of intelligence to necessary to accept such lies.
8.25.2008 12:25pm
frankcross (mail):
Benjamin Davis, all that may be true, though any statement from the Socialists about what is "inconceivable" might be treated with less credulity than you give it. But none of that speaks to U.S. advisors participating in the attack. What was the Canard's source for this information.
8.25.2008 12:39pm
ejo:
didn't cynicism as a philosophy actually have a goal of finding out the truth? does a "world weary" sigh accompanied by a statement of "I don't believe anything" satisfy the standard?
8.25.2008 12:56pm
PLR:
Kenneth Anderson:
However, I am more interested in the overall question of the policy stance that the US should take toward the territories themselves than I am about the question of whether US advisors were directly involved in advising during the hostilities. What should US policy be?

I don't agree with all those brilliant thinkers at Hoover and the Weekly Sociopath Standard, and the reputation of the Kagan family members precedes them. Frankly, the repeated references to that crowd as "conservative" tends to produce a gag reflex.

Given your grudging acknowledgment that Southern Ossetia's and Abkhazia's citizenry ought not be wedded to Georgia simply by virtue of Stalin's pronouncements and the predilections of map publishers, I cannot fathom what sense it makes for the U.S. to be committing military advisors or hardware in a Caucasus region which means nothing to us, and means quite a bit to Russia. And how exactly would we feel about Russia posting some Red Army soldiers in Cuba, Nicaragua or Venezuela?

Russia will eventually leave Georgia proper. There's nothing there that it wants, other than to keep Georgia out of the breakaway regions. But as long as the U.S. is following this insane notion of inviting the tiny (yet quite militarized) Georgia into NATO, Russia may find it useful and fun to teach the U.S. a lesson on a small scale. Hopefully it will stay that way despite the efforts of faux conservatives with cans of gasoline.
8.25.2008 1:04pm
rarango (mail):
As one who has served in NATO (Needs Americans/Alcohol To Operate) it has indeed served its original purpose. It does function to provide several general office billets, particularly for the British Army. (a bit cynical but....)

This Georgian operation underscores the changing nature of Russian foreign policy--which is looking increasely Tsarist. And it makes adding the old Soviet republics to NATO problematic. And I am resonably sure that was a bonus effect of their operation and has not been lost on other western oriented former republics--And NATO
8.25.2008 1:29pm
deepthought:
PLR said:

There's nothing there that it wants, other than to keep Georgia out of the breakaway regions. But as long as the U.S. is following this insane notion of inviting the tiny (yet quite militarized) Georgia into NATO, Russia may find it useful and fun to teach the U.S. a lesson on a small scale.


Not quite true. There is an oil pipeline that goes through Georgia, transporting oil from the Caspian Sea, the only one that doesn't go through Russia. This pipeline, whose construction and route was supported by the Europeans and the Bush Administration, was designed to give the Europeans an alternative source of energy to what is currently controlled by Russia.

Russia's invasion of neighboring Georgia has raised doubts about the security of oil and gas pipelines that cross through the former Soviet republic and the wisdom of further investment in the transport lines.

The foray also put an emphatic stamp on Russia's growing influence over the region's natural resources and, by proxy, over Europe.

The pipelines, supplying about 1% of the world's daily oil needs, have not been damaged by the fighting, but the prospect of that led pipeline part-owner BP to shut down one of the oil lines . . . . (It has since reopened).

"The Russians have clearly demonstrated their military capability of getting very close to the pipelines," said Edward Chow, an energy expert at Washington's Center for Strategic and International Studies. "And they also sent the Black Sea fleet off the Georgian coast, so they also have demonstrated that they can blockade Georgia anytime they want."

The pipelines begin in Azerbaijan and pass through Georgian territory en route to ports on the Black Sea and the Mediterranean Sea, where tankers take the crude mostly to Western Europe.

For Europeans and others, the routes through Georgia represent a crucial counterbalance to Russia's control over pipelines and energy resources. Some hoped expansion projects throughout Georgia might further loosen Russia's grip over European energy supplies. . . . James L. Williams, publisher of the Energy Economist newsletter, was blunt about the possible repercussions.

"For Russia, control of Georgia and the pipeline would restore much of its influence over many of the former satellites of the U.S.S.R.," he said. "It would have the clear benefit of increasing Russia's energy chokehold on Europe."


Russia's invasion of Georgia proper (leaving aside the fact that South Oesstia and Abkhazia are Georgian territory), its occupation/blockade of its main port, and its roadblocks which have literally divided the country is all about power, energy, historical greviances, and population decline.

What to do about it? The West can reenforce the current Georgian government: rebuild its army, work diplomatically to remove the remaning Russian occupation troops from their "buffer zone", (though the Europeans are acting as spineless as ever, but given the fact that Russia has them over a barrel (of oil), not too surprising), and work in other ways as suggested by Professor Anderson. Georgia is going to have to get over the fact, however, that it has lost South Oesstia and Abkhazia; but that doesn't mean the West needs accede to the Russian Bear's other demands.
8.25.2008 1:56pm
Sarcastro (www):
[I'm honstly curious.

I thought we were scared of Communist Soviet Russia, not Tsarist Russia...what are the projected horrors of the Tsar re: non-Russian countries?]
8.25.2008 2:02pm
egrim (mail):
I looked up the work "canard" on dictionary.com, and while it does mean "duck" it's root (according to dictionary.com's references) are closer to the commonest English meaning of the word, that is, a false or misleading story.

I wonder if Benjamin Davis didn't know that, or conveniently neglected to mention it because the story in The Canard Enchaine confirmed his preconception -- US bad, other guys (any other guys) good.
8.25.2008 2:04pm
egrim (mail):
I looked up the word, not the work. Sorry.
8.25.2008 2:05pm
SATA_Interface:
Ejo, the Cynic philosophy was to remain apart from sinful desire, so avoiding being successful at making money, drinking too much, being boastful or lusty in living. Virtue alone was enough to be happy.

Today that meaning is turned a little on its head to become mistrustful of someone when they tell you that they are doing something for a reason other than self-interest - altruism, saving the world, etc - doing it out of a sense of virtue and not for simple desire to be drunk, get laid, be selfish, etc.
8.25.2008 2:08pm
PLR:
Deepthought at 12:56:

While the pipeline may be tempting, Russia has not previously indicated any interest in actually trying to rule an unwilling and unruly Georgia population in order to control the pipeline and give itself leverage in the oil markets. I rather doubt Russia wants that kind of a headache when it is already profiting from oil extraction despite the existence of the competing pipeline.
8.25.2008 2:22pm
Elliot123 (mail):
Ben,

You told us, "did anyone know that US officers were aiming the rocket launchers for the Georgians when they were shooting into the capital of South Ossetia."

That means the US military was shooting at Russians. You haven't provided any back up for that, nor has the article in the World Socialist Website. It's beginning to seem like a canard.
8.25.2008 2:56pm
rarango (mail):
Sarcastro--I didnt capture the link, but "The end of 1989" in the Atlantic goes through the entire argument and I found it quite well argued and convincing.
8.25.2008 3:02pm
Benjamin Davis (mail):
Elliot123 and frankcross - the article is on page 3 of the Canard Enchaine which is not online. If you send me a fax number I will be happy to send it to you offlist. Send it to ben.davis@utoledo.edu. The sources for the article are members of the french etat major which would be general staff level or higher in the french military structure. The french have been in Georgia participating in the Georgian strengthening work of the past five years as was described in a tinyurl article cited by someone up above. Now as to the next question of who was the person in the french general staff who gave the information to the Canard, I do not have that information. Frequently Canard articles have anonymous sources because the articles talk way ahead of the curve about very delicate things. On the quality of the Canard reporting, over the past 20 odd years I have read it I have found that they have first rate journalistic chops and nail the unseen story well ahead of the rest of the press in France and other countries for that matter. They are stronger on french things, but the thing here is it is a french thing through the french having links into Georgia.

As to cynics and not cynics, whatever. Sorry if I have not developed sufficient credulity to any sources. I look for the conduct. Canard has been generally super. Governments not so hot. Like when Tchernobyl happened and the French government said that the cloud - which went over Germany etc - did not go over France. Something about that airspace!

Best,
Ben
8.25.2008 3:09pm
LM (mail):
Thomas Holsinger,

Your response is more nuanced, and I may even agree with it -- I think we blundered by tying U.S. prestige to anyone as reckless as Saakashvili -- but it evades explaining why you seem ready to throw the baby out with the bathwater. That's why I asked what you disagree with in Prof. Anderson's article. Whether or not one endorses his proposal (I'm not sure yet myself), I think he makes an unassailable case for there being more than one likely villain here. This is no "good guy" "bad guy" scenario, and if there's one party whose behavior comes closest to being unambiguously wrong, it's Russia.
8.25.2008 3:19pm
LM (mail):
Sarcastro,

I thought we were scared of Communist Soviet Russia, not Tsarist Russia...what are the projected horrors of the Tsar re: non-Russian countries?

What did the Poles, Ukrainians and Georgians have to fear from pre-Soviet Russia?
8.25.2008 3:27pm
PLR:
Whether or not one endorses his proposal (I'm not sure yet myself), I think he makes an unassailable case for there being more than one likely villain here. This is no "good guy" "bad guy" scenario, and if there's one party whose behavior comes closest to being unambiguously wrong, it's Russia.

If there are multiple wrongdoers -- and there are -- it becomes rather pointless to allocate fault or evil among them as if this were some complicated personal injury action with multiple tortfeasors. Ossetians should not have attacked ethnic Georgians, Georgia should not have attacked Ossetia, and Russia should not have reacted with disproportionate force.

As for the allegation that U.S. military personnel were involved, I haven't seen that in the English speaking media, so I can't buy into it. The Georgian military has been provided with U.S. army surplus camouflage attire and armored vests, so from a distance the troops visually might look like American soldiers.
8.25.2008 3:30pm
Displaced Midwesterner:

Given the apparently pervasive US influence in the Georgian military noted by the NY Times in my excerpt below of Barry Grey's "Bush escalates confrontation with Russia over Georgia," published by the World Socialist Website here on Aug. 12 at here, such direct involvement of US forces would not be a surprise. As to US foreknowledge of the Georgian attack, see "The New York Times covers for US role in Georgia crisis," published Aug. 16 at here.

As Elliot123 notes, the World Socialist article says nothing about American military advisers being present or assisting with the targeting of attacks on Tskhinvali. It also strikes me as being fairly biased and thinly reasoned. Yes, the Georgian military is American trained. Yes, Rice was there a month before the guns of August went off. However, there is not much indication that this was a long-planned Georgian attack. Georgia certainly had some sort of plan for such a circumstance, they would be idiots not to. But the actual attack was on fairly short notice, in response to South Ossetian attacks and Russia's army massing on the border with North Ossetia. Contrast this with Russia's invasion, which due to the logistics required, clearly indicates that Russia was not exactly caught off guard.

As for whether there was foreknowledge from the US, I can't find a link atm, but I remember reading that Bryza (the US deputy ass't secy I think is his title, for the region) was called a few hours before it happened and tried to dissuade Saakashvili from acting. Sorry, I can't find the actual NY Times article referenced on this with a quick search. The link is to the same Socialist article. But I don't remember reading anything on the Times about advanced knowledge of the attack beyond a few hours and the US saying no. Was the US aware that Misha might, at some point, try to use force in South Ossetia? Of course. But that is a very different matter.

Also, in addition to what deepthought said in resposne to PLR, Russia's interests in Georgia include not just the pipelines already there, but also deterring future pipeline projects in the works that would bypass Russia. Additionally, Russia wanted to use this to pressure other near abroad states. Fun article from today.
8.25.2008 3:32pm
Displaced Midwesterner:
Sorry, bad link there. The link should be this.

Hopefully that will actually work.
8.25.2008 3:36pm
LM (mail):

As for whether there was foreknowledge from the US, I can't find a link atm, but I remember reading that Bryza (the US deputy ass't secy I think is his title, for the region) was called a few hours before it happened and tried to dissuade Saakashvili from acting.

FWIW, I believe Condi said on one of the Sunday chat shows that she personally warned him not to provoke the Russians into a confrontation he couldn't win. He may yet dispute that account, but I haven't heard any denials yet.
8.25.2008 3:49pm
LM (mail):

it becomes rather pointless to allocate fault or evil among them as if this were some complicated personal injury action with multiple tortfeasors.

I agree. My emphasis on Russia was only in response to Holsinger's comment that would let Russia off the hook entirely or even reward it (though, in fairness, I'm not sure he meant it literally). That said, we do have to discriminate among the interests served by potential outcomes. And I'd prefer an outcome that doesn't reward an increasingly authoritarian and expansionist Russia at the expense of an albeit flawed Georgian democracy and American prestige.
8.25.2008 4:09pm
MarkField (mail):

What did the Poles, Ukrainians and Georgians have to fear from pre-Soviet Russia?


This was in response to a Sarcastro post, so forgive me for asking if you meant it seriously. Did you mean this seriously?
8.25.2008 4:49pm
Dave N (mail):
Mark Field,

I can always tell when Sarcastro is being sarcastic and when he is being serious (and I should note that he has made some good points both ways). Simply put, Sarcastro puts his serious comments behind brackets as in: [This is really a serious comment by me] while his sarcastic comments do not have brackets.
8.25.2008 5:36pm
Dmitry:
Comparison of Osetia/Georgia to Poland/Germany is simply wrong: the russian "peacekeepers" were actively protecting Osetia, so these guys were in fact stronger than georgians (as the later events proved). Look on the CVs of Osetia's government: they are all former Russian army/FSB. This is a puppet regime. They are needed as long as conflict is interesting to Russia.

Saakashvili was reacting to the destruction of Tamarsheni - the georgian village near the Tzkhinvali, the Osetian capital. And frankly he had no choice: how should he react to the heavy shelling of georgian civilians, some were killed and wounded? It seems that the russians injected forces to Osetia before Saakashvili attack. At least they had enough common sense to evacuate all women and children a week before the war.


destroyed Tamarsheni and Tskhinvali

It was a war planned by russians, and Saakashvili just had a choice: wait another day for their direct attack or make preemprive move. He had no good choice.
8.25.2008 5:38pm
MarkField (mail):

I can always tell when Sarcastro is being sarcastic and when he is being serious (and I should note that he has made some good points both ways). Simply put, Sarcastro puts his serious comments behind brackets as in: [This is really a serious comment by me] while his sarcastic comments do not have brackets.


Thanks. I thought there was some method to them.

However, the post I quoted was by LM responding to Sarcastro. I was unsure whether LM was responding in the spirit or seriously.
8.25.2008 5:46pm
MarkField (mail):

It was a war planned by russians, and Saakashvili just had a choice: wait another day for their direct attack or make preemprive move. He had no good choice.


I don't find this persuasive. Assuming you're right and the Russians were going to attack anyway, Georgia was foolish to strike first. It had no chance of "winning" either way; by striking first, it forfeited a great deal of international sympathy and complicated the diplomatic situation immensely.
8.25.2008 5:50pm
ejo:
of course it was planned by the Russians-anyone who says otherwise is, quite simply, ignoring the reality that the Russians were ready to go when the Georgians "provoked" them.
8.25.2008 5:52pm
emsl (mail):
Just as a matter of curiosity, where is all the high-flown rhetoric attacking unilateralism when it comes to Russia? I seem to recall a huge amount of criticism (principally from the left) that said that even if intervention in Iraq was justified, the United States sinned by engaging in unilateral action. Have those same parties levelled these charges against Russia?
8.25.2008 6:17pm
ejo:
silly, emsl-we know that the left only responds to actions committed by America and Jews. Kind of why millions haven't mobilized to protest these incursions. as to the canard about international sympathy and diplomacy being waived by a response, can someone explain how Tibet and those slaughtered in the Sudan have benefitted by being international poster children?
8.25.2008 6:40pm
Displaced Midwesterner:

I don't find this persuasive. Assuming you're right and the Russians were going to attack anyway, Georgia was foolish to strike first. It had no chance of "winning" either way; by striking first, it forfeited a great deal of international sympathy and complicated the diplomatic situation immensely.

Pretty much all the signs point to Russia was going to attack anyway. But yes, Georgia was foolish to try a pre-emptive strike. It's hard to say why exactly Saakashvili acted as he did. There are some logical possibilities, though. One is that he really did think that Georgia might be able to block off the Roki Tunnel and make it hard enough for Russia to actually invade that international pressure might be able to prevent such an invasion. Another is that Saakashvili realized that Russia was going to invade on some pretext or another, and sooner rather than later. By giving Russia its pretext right before the start of the Olympics he might have been hoping that Russia would not immediately respond and this would give Georgia time to seek more support and would make it harder for Russia to invade in response to something 2 weeks earlier (because it is easier to justify an invasion when you "respond" quickly, rather than when you act after a delay).
8.25.2008 7:34pm
Thomas_Holsinger:
LM,

IMO Saakashvili is not an aberration. I have the same opinion about having ANY of the Caucasian nations as NATO members.

I read, either in Paul Johnson's Modern Times, or in Paul Kennedy's The Rise and Fall of Great Powers, about a late 1930's debate among the British chiefs of staff as to whether Great Britain would be better off with Mussolini's Italy as an enemy, or as an ally. The same issues apply to Caucasian nations as potential members of NATO. Some alliances are more trouble than they are worth.

Note also that PLR shares my opinion about the flip side of what I mentioned, that we'd be better off with Georgia being part of Russia than as a member of NATO:
"... Russia has not previously indicated any interest in actually trying to rule an unwilling and unruly Georgia population in order to control the pipeline and give itself leverage in the oil markets. I rather doubt Russia wants that kind of a headache ..."
8.25.2008 7:55pm
Thomas_Holsinger:
I have skimmed Professor Anderson's blog post and see nothing in it about American supply lines to Afghanistan through Russia. That is certainly a consideration in American relations with Russia. While we have another supply line to Afghanistan through Pakistan, BOTH our supply lines to Afghanistan lead through nuclear-armed nations which do not love us.

There are issues about priorities here. Failure to address those is error.
8.25.2008 8:02pm
David Warner:
"However, the post I quoted was by LM responding to Sarcastro. I was unsure whether LM was responding in the spirit or seriously."

It was serious. LM was trying to broaden Sarcastro's regrettably narrow horizons. He has a gift for satire; not so much for aim.
8.25.2008 8:36pm
David Warner:
"I read, either in Paul Johnson's Modern Times, or in Paul Kennedy's The Rise and Fall of Great Powers, about a late 1930's debate among the British chiefs of staff as to whether Great Britain would be better off with Mussolini's Italy as an enemy, or as an ally."

Is it at all relevant that Mussolini's Italy was, you know, a fascist dictatorship? While our resources may preclude us assuming the defense of liberty wherever it first takes root, our interests and ideals unite in its support.

As for this thread:

"We must never forget that international friendship is achieved through rumors ignored, propaganda challenged and exposed; through patient loyalty to those who have proved themselves worthy of it; through help freely given, where help is needed and merited... Peace is more a product of our day-to-day living than of a spectacular program, intermittently executed."

- Dwight D. Eisenhower

Of course, he's not as credible as Canard or the Socialist Worker, but still...
8.25.2008 8:55pm
LM (mail):
Mark,

Did you mean this seriously?

No. Sarcastro's question was literal, and I figured at least one of us should be sarcastic. But just to be clear, my point was that Russia's neighbors have plenty to fear. Us? Not so much. But as Virgil Sollozzo said, "blood is bad for business" i.e., an expansionist Russia terrifying its neighbors should concern everyone. And then there's that pesky matter of blood also being bad for the people who bleed.
8.25.2008 9:03pm
Michael B (mail):
"Saakashvili was reacting to the destruction of Tamarsheni - the georgian village near the Tzkhinvali, the Osetian capital. And frankly he had no choice: how should he react to the heavy shelling of georgian civilians, some were killed and wounded? It seems that the russians injected forces to Osetia before Saakashvili attack. At least they had enough common sense to evacuate all women and children a week before the war." dmitry

This seems about right, it also dovetails with the cyber and propaganda campaign launched from Russia and against Georgia, minor in and of itself, but tell-tale and a predecessor to the fighting, so their was a Russian advance strategy.

If there's a German analogy that has more viability, it may be the Rhineland.

And Benjamin Davis, you're all wet with your Vietnam allusion. It never was a big secret that JFK had military advisors playing an active role, he increased the number of advisors within a few months of assuming office and dramatically increased it in '63. More importantly, the reasons for that advisory role in the first place included such things as the North infiltrating, propagandizing, assassinating and systematically terrorizing villages in the South. China's advisory role as early as 1950 is another factor, a few other factors come more immediately to mind as well.
8.25.2008 9:08pm
LM (mail):

Assuming you're right and the Russians were going to attack anyway, Georgia was foolish to strike first. It had no chance of "winning" either way; by striking first, it forfeited a great deal of international sympathy and complicated the diplomatic situation immensely.

I agree. I'm not even certain Russia would have attacked without at least a thin pretext. Regardless, it was idiotic for Saakashvili to hand them one on a silver platter.
8.25.2008 9:12pm
Thomas_Holsinger:
Mark Warner,

The British faced an existential threat then.
8.25.2008 9:22pm
David Warner:
"Mark Warner,

The British faced an existential threat then."

It might be interesting to be Mark Warner, but alas I am merely David.

Then was too late.
8.25.2008 9:27pm
David Warner:
"If there's a German analogy that has more viability, it may be the Rhineland."

Try the Anschluss. Extraterritorial, infiltration, regime change goal, etc...

Of course all these parallels break down on the fact that Putin isn't insane.

I nominate LM as V.C. point man on Russia/Georgia. He's all over it.
8.25.2008 9:34pm
David Warner:
Sorry for the dreaded triplepost, but a more interesting parallel is Mussolini in Abyssinia and the effect on the credibility of the League of Nations of the action/lack thereof the League took.
8.25.2008 9:37pm
Michael B (mail):
"Of course all these parallels break down on the fact that Putin isn't insane."

It wasn't a "parallel" that was suggested, far from it. An analogy only and then but a tepid one. Still, the Rhineland represented an initial grasp, a testing of the waters, and that was the allusion being suggested.
8.25.2008 9:55pm
MarkField (mail):

No. Sarcastro's question was literal, and I figured at least one of us should be sarcastic.


Whew. I read it the right way then. I was just about to launch into the history of Russian/Polish/Ukraine relations (complete with family anecdotes), and then realized that you were most likely sarcastic.

At least my sarcasm detector does work some days.
8.25.2008 10:17pm
TDPerkins (mail):
LM and Markfield seem ignorant of the extent of the preparations which Russia has to have undertaken for it to have advanced as it did, well supplied and in good order.

Also, they seem to be ignorant of the objective--very nearly achieved--of the spoiling attack the Georgians made on the Roki tunnel.

If they had destroyed that, the Russia could only have advanced through mountain passes and along the length of the axis from Abkhazia to Tblisi.

LM and Markfield, Russia was already going into Georgia, the question was what could Georgia do about it? The only shot they had to hold on to the bulk of the country was to seal the Roki tunnel. To get to it, the Georgians had to go through South Ossetia.

And with the South Ossetians shelling into Georgia, it's scarcely like the Georgians were unprovoked or attacked first, and also not credible that laying down for the Russians would have got them anywhere. Sympathy means exactly nothing here, it buys the Georgians nothing at all.

And if anyone thinks Russia could not have been stopped in the mountains, I yet haven't heard of any Russian incursions into the Minor Caucasus. While it is always possible they merely do not want to go in, it is also true they have not.

Yours, TDP, ml, msl, &pfpp
8.25.2008 10:24pm
PLR:
Just as a matter of curiosity, where is all the high-flown rhetoric attacking unilateralism when it comes to Russia? I seem to recall a huge amount of criticism (principally from the left) that said that even if intervention in Iraq was justified, the United States sinned by engaging in unilateral action. Have those same parties levelled these charges against Russia?

Nope. This is a legal issues site. When you say "justified," to us that means "lawful," which the invasion of Iraq was not by any stretch.

Russia entered Ossetia (technically it was already there, but not in a combat role) because Georgia attacked Russian citizens. That makes it different from the U.S. attack of Iraq. I don't claim Russia's action was lawful, just different and plausibly lawful.

If it was lawful, then the subsequent movement of Russia into the undisputed parts of Georgia may or may not have been lawful as ancillary to other lawful military action.

If you don't a rat's patoot about laws and just want to pass out white hats and black hats, none of this may interest you. But since you asked...
8.25.2008 11:30pm
TDPerkins (mail):

When you say "justified," to us that means "lawful," which the invasion of Iraq was not by any stretch.


It was justified on about 14 different points, one of which was partly wrong in retrospect, the partial vitiation of which point leaves the others still more than sufficient to justify war.

Yours, TDP, ml, msl, &pfpp
8.25.2008 11:52pm
Angus:

Saakashvili was reacting to the destruction of Tamarsheni - the georgian village near the Tzkhinvali, the Osetian capital.

He said, she said. According to South Ossetian officials, Georgia started shelling the areas surrounding Tzkhinvali in preparation for the Georgian attack.

It seems that the russians injected forces to Osetia before Saakashvili attack.
There have been Russian forces in South Ossetia since 1992, when Ossetia and Georgia agreed on a cease fire and a joint peacekeeping mission of Russian, Georgia, and Ossetian troops.
8.26.2008 12:06am
MarkField (mail):

LM and Markfield seem ignorant of the extent of the preparations which Russia has to have undertaken for it to have advanced as it did, well supplied and in good order.


I don't see why you'd say this. We both assumed that was true.


Also, they seem to be ignorant of the objective--very nearly achieved--of the spoiling attack the Georgians made on the Roki tunnel.


If you have a cite to show that this was their original goal, I'd like to see it. Regardless, though, I think it was foolish for Georgia to give Russia the pretext.
8.26.2008 12:26am
deepthought:
PLR at 1:22 pm:

Russia doesn't need to rule Georgia, it just needs to continue what it is doing now; occupying its only port, setting up roadblocks, severing transportation links, and dividing its territory. It just need to weaken Georgia and keep out nations which to strengthen it.
8.26.2008 1:43am
byrdfl3w (mail):
My take on this situation is simple: The threat of terrorism is failing to keep the population of the US frightened enough to submit to the continued removal of personal liberties by their government.

The solution? Create a new enemy (or rather, resurrect an old one), and increase the fear again, this time with the tried and true threat of nuclear war.

I find it interesting that at the time of the EXACT start of the Russia/Georgia incident, both Bush AND Putin (whom we all know still wields the real power in Russia), were sitting together, joking, laughing, touching gymnasts, and generally having a great old time at the Olympic Games opening ceremony.

To my mind, This skirmish is simply the first step of a plan between those at the top of the world's ruling elite (political and corporate, US, Russia and others) to give them all the necessary powers to continue consolodating land masses, taking over ever more territory and control of natural resources, generating incomprehensible amounts of money for the Military Industrial Complex, and in the case of the US, continuing to incrementally remove people's liberties by scaring them into compliance with non-exsistent boogeymen.

It appears to me that the mainstream news media are in this matter playing along with the instructions given to them by their corporate controllers, just as they did joyfully and blindly support the "we KNOW Saddam has WMD's" lie, propagated shortly following 9/11.

I would expect a nuclear incident in a US city sometime soon. Buildings being "destroyed" by planes will not work this time. An extreme flavour of shock &awe will be required to get the populace terrified, and ready and willing to surrender the last shreds of their freedom for "security".

This is all just MHO.. I remain an optimist, and I would be extremely happy to be completely wrong about this!
8.26.2008 3:02am
JB:
MarkField,
Do you really think the international community would have acted differently had Georgia been more obviously the victim? My view, looking at the last 100 years, is that the international community acts in its own interests and retroactively justifies. If clear victimhood was any help, World War II would have begun with a French attack on Germany following the Sudetnland crisis and the U.S. army would be bogged down in Darfur instead of Iraq.
8.26.2008 3:08am
M. Simon (mail) (www):
It seems to me from a geo-political stand point that anything that weakens Europe's dependence on Russian energy supplies is bad for the Russians.

The fact that the Russians did not capture the pipeline was a failure on their part.

The fact that the American Army will be setting up shop permanently in an old Russian Army base was a loss for the Russians. The fact that America has a flotilla in the Black Sea with a Command ship was a loss for the Russians. American Patriot batteries in Poland was a loss for the Russians. America's strengthening ties with the Ukraine was a loss for the Russians.

Russia suffered a serious geo-political defeat.

In addition Russians looting toilets and used toothbrushes? I think that is a sign of serious economic weakness.

At some suitable time they will slink back off to the Motherland and think twice before committing another act of "adventurism".
8.26.2008 3:11am
M. Simon (mail) (www):
byrdfl3w,

Be extremely happy.
8.26.2008 3:13am
Thomas_Holsinger:
This just in:
Russian threat to Nato supply route in Afghanistan

"Russia played a trump card in its strategic p*o*k*e*r game with the West yesterday by threatening to suspend an agreement allowing Nato to take supplies and equipment to Afghanistan through Russia and Central Asia.

The agreement was struck at a Nato summit in April to provide an alternative supply route to the road between the Afghan capital and the Pakistani border, which has come under attack from militants on both sides of the frontier this year.

Zamir Kabulov, the Russian Ambassador to Afghanistan, told The Times in an interview that he believed the deal was no longer valid because Russia suspended military cooperation with Nato last week over its support for Georgia.

Asked if the move by Russia invalidated the agreement, he said: “Of course. Why not? If there is a suspension of military cooperation, this is military cooperation.”

Mr Kabulov also suggested that the stand-off over Georgia could lead Russia to review agreements allowing Nato members to use Russian airspace and to maintain bases in the former Soviet Central Asian states of Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.

“No one with common sense can expect to cooperate with Russia in one part of the world while acting against it in another,” he said.

His remarks are likely to alarm Nato commanders because the Taleban have been targeting the supply routes of the alliance this year, mimicking tactics used against the British in 1841 and the Soviet Union two decades ago. Nato imports about 70 per cent of its food, fuel, water and equipment from Pakistan via the Khyber Pass, and flies in much of the rest through Russian airspace via bases in Central Asia. It has not started using the “northern corridor” because the deal – covering nonmilitary supplies and nonlethal military equipment – has yet to be cleared with the Central Asian states involved ..."

Me earlier today:

"I have skimmed Professor Anderson's blog post and see nothing in it about American supply lines to Afghanistan through Russia. That is certainly a consideration in American relations with Russia. While we have another supply line to Afghanistan through Pakistan, BOTH our supply lines to Afghanistan lead through nuclear-armed nations which do not love us.

There are issues about priorities here. Failure to address those is error."
8.26.2008 3:21am
M. Simon (mail) (www):
I see a lot of lawyering going on. Not much knowledge of military affairs.

Georgia did what is called a spoiling attack. Attacking the Russians when the Russians were preparing to attack not defend. Its purpose is to dislocate an advance.

It seems to have served that purpose. Russia did not get the pipeline.
8.26.2008 3:47am
M. Simon (mail) (www):
America may have made a deal with Turkmenistan for overflights into Afghanistan.

Which would mean the Russians have lost leverage.

It may very well be that we have decided that Georgia, Azerbajan, and Tukmenistan are a better deal than Russia. That would fit in well with our NATO ally Turkey.

Do you guys ever look at a map before you pontificate? Ever check out resource alliances?

Seriously. You get into minutiae like who pulled the trigger on rocket artillery and forget about lines of supply and geopolitics.

WW2 was an oil war. The world today is not much different.

He who controls the lines of supply for oil controls the world. Not to mention their own economic destiny.

Want fewer oil wars? Increase American production.
8.26.2008 4:05am
MarkField (mail):

Do you really think the international community would have acted differently had Georgia been more obviously the victim? My view, looking at the last 100 years, is that the international community acts in its own interests and retroactively justifies.


I share your cynicism. Georgia's problem is that there is no conceivable set of circumstances under which it could "win" -- the disparity in power is too great. I doubt Russia would have acted under circumstances where it would be seen as the sole aggressor.* If it had, though, the international community could have indulged its passion for self-righteous indignation and that may have had some impact.

*Russia is perfectly capable of creating its own "provocation", of course.
8.26.2008 11:46am
PLR:
TD Perkins: It was justified on about 14 different points, one of which was partly wrong in retrospect, the partial vitiation of which point leaves the others still more than sufficient to justify war. Yours, TDP [and other personalities]

What a shame you didn't have the time to enumerate even 1 of the 14.
Deepthought:Russia doesn't need to rule Georgia, it just needs to continue what it is doing now; occupying its only port, setting up roadblocks, severing transportation links, and dividing its territory. It just need to weaken Georgia and keep out nations which to strengthen it.

All of which takes manpower and money. With Russia apparently preparing to recognize the sovereignty of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, I'm skeptical that it wants to strangle Georgia long-term. But time will tell.

I do wonder what the North Ossetians will think about South Ossetian sovereignty. Newton's third law may apply to more than just the physical universe.
8.26.2008 12:00pm
ejo:
how about the past aggression, violation of mandates, WMD programs (which everyone agreed he had), support of terrorism, plotting to assassinate presidents, just the sheer evil of the man, years of giving him every opportunity to avoid destruction-those are a few.
8.26.2008 12:35pm
PLR:
how about the past aggression, violation of mandates, WMD programs (which everyone agreed he had), support of terrorism, plotting to assassinate presidents, just the sheer evil of the man, years of giving him every opportunity to avoid destruction-those are a few.

None of those work as legal justification for the 1993 attack on Iraq by the U.S., and most aren't even relevant.
8.26.2008 12:56pm
deepthought:
M. Simon says:


The fact that the Russians did not capture the pipeline was a failure on their part.

The fact that the American Army will be setting up shop permanently in an old Russian Army base was a loss for the Russians. The fact that America has a flotilla in the Black Sea with a Command ship was a loss for the Russians. American Patriot batteries in Poland was a loss for the Russians. America's strengthening ties with the Ukraine was a loss for the Russians.

Russia suffered a serious geo-political defeat.


They don't need to capture the pipeline (which is underground). They have captured the port of Poti where oil tankers load up the oil from the pipeline, so it doesn't matter. In addition, the conflict has driven up shipping insurance rates to make it very expensive to attempt to ship oil from Georgia through the Black Sea.

There is no evidence of that the American Army will be "setting up shop permanently in an old Russian Army base." It would be very difficult to supply such as base, esp. since the Russians again occupy Poti and the Russian Navy is a hop, skip and jump from its Black Sea port of Sevastopol and the US Navy is not.

Flotilla? One US Navy ship, the U.S.S. MCFAUL, is scheduled to enter the port of Batumi, bringing "baby food, bottled water and a message of support" and this visit was previously scheduled. The Russians are trembling in their boots. In fact, to send any ship to the Black Sea requires the permission of Turkey (since ships must pass through the Bosporus and the Dardanelles Straits) and the Pentagon has resisted
. . . . using U.S. weapons, troops or ships to send political messages to Russia. The Marine Corps would like to withdraw 17 Marines who were in Georgia to train Georgian troops for duty in Iraq, but the White House has insisted that the trainers remain in Tbilisi, the Georgian capital, to head off any chance that the administration would be seen to be abandoning an ally.


In addition, the Article 18 of the Montreux Convention says countries that do not border the Black Sea can send warships with a total weight, or displacement, of up to 45,000 tonnes to the Black Sea, after informing Turkey’s government in advance. Those ships are allowed to remain in the Black Sea for 21 days at most. So no carrier task forces. We can't even send a hospital ship there without Turkey's consent. The Black Sea is really a Russian Lake.

Russian geo-strategic defeat? Hardly. More like a brilliant geo-strategic victory.
8.26.2008 1:34pm
PLR:
correction of error at 11:56 post:

None of those work as legal justification for the 1993 2003 attack on Iraq by the U.S., and most aren't even relevant.
8.26.2008 1:43pm
ejo:
I would have to disagree with that-all work quite well. you don't like them but they work.
8.26.2008 3:45pm
PLR:
I would have to disagree with that-all work quite well. you don't like them but they work.

What does "like them" have to do with anything?

"Past aggression" is not a legal basis for an attack by another nation. "Violation of mandates" is not a legal basis for such an attack unless so specified in the applicable mandate. The existence of "WMD programs" is not a legal basis for such an attack (and wasn't factual per Hans Blix, the U.N. inspectors and the U.S. government's own intelligence produced outside of the Office of Special Plans)). "Support of terrorism" is too vague to take seriously, especially when the terrorism is not directed at the U.S. "Plotting to assassinate presidents" (sic) a deacde earlier, assuming it to be true, is not a legal basis for an attack. "Sheer evil" is not a term that has legal significance. "Years of giving him every opportunity to avoid destruction" also has no legal relevance.

That's your whole list.

Maybe that great foreign folly policy architect Richard Perle has a legal theory for you. Or not.
8.26.2008 6:15pm
David Warner:
"U.S. government's own intelligence produced outside of the Office of Special Plans"

Rarely have clear sense and implication so varied.

As for war legality, what about violation of cease-fire agreement?
8.26.2008 10:19pm
TDPerkins (mail):
Just a point deepthough, the US is not signatory to the Montreaux Convention to my knowledge. As a practical matter, at this time we would not attempt to force the Bosporos.

But the more fractious Turkey becomes, the less we have to lose.

Yours, TDP, ml, msl, &pfpp
8.26.2008 10:36pm
PLR:
As for war legality, what about violation of cease-fire agreement?

Certainly better than any of ejo's thoeries.

Lord Goldsmith took a run at that one for Tony Blair, and gave him no better than a maybe. The Brits are good at constructing hedges.

Opinion here.
8.27.2008 1:35pm
David Warner:
"The Brits are good at constructing hedges."

= )
8.28.2008 2:58pm