August 11, 2008
Georgia On My Mind
I admit up front my innate antipathy for Russia, dating from the days of the Soviet empire. I took a wait and see attitude following the breakup of the USSR, and I certainly cheered on that drunken sot, Boris Yeltsin, as he climbed atop a tank and dismantled Communism. I was even fooled at the beginning by Vlad "the Impaler" Putin -- who evidently fooled President George W. Bush as well. But for a number of years now, I have thought that Putin's spy-eye view of Russia made it the second gravest threat facing the United States, ahead of China and North Korea and second only to the Iran/al-Qaeda Axis.
Thus, the moment I heard about Russia's invasion of the democratic, free-market nation of Georgia, I knew who was the aggressor and what side I was on. I'm quite gratified that John S. McCain is on the side of the angels. I'm not shocked that Barack H. Obama cannot make up his mind but leans towards the creeping totalitarianism of Russia, in which he perhaps sees a good model for America under himself. And I'm sympathetic to the frustration felt by many Americans that we seem unable to do anything about the barely concealed Russian re-expansionism.
The most urgent point, however, is not who started the war... it's that we cannot allow Russia to slip back across the border unobstructed, their goals accomplished. Putin must pay a severe price -- enough to make him think twice about trying it again. We cannot even allow it to end in stalemate, like the Israeli-Hezbollah-Hamas war of 2006; in the case of such well-planned "spontaneous" aggression, a tie goes to the aggressor.
In a monument to poor timing, Georgia did actually poke the Russian-identifying separatists in South Ossetia; but the Russian separatists have been aggressively pushing the Georgians ever since the bloodless Rose Revolution of 2003, which booted the corrupt former Soviet foreign minister, Eduard Shevardnadze, out of office and brought current Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili to power.
And the Russian response has been out of all proportion -- in fact, beyond all sanity -- and too swift and effective to be spontaneous. The logical conclusion is that they have been planning this invasion for a long time, only waiting for the eyes of the world to be turned elsewhere (the Olympics did nicely), and for some action on Georgia's part that Russia could seize upon as casus belli.
Russian troops have squatted in South Ossetia and Abkhazia, another ethnically Russian enclave in Georgia, since 1994; and Russia has encouraged the separatists in both regions to launch terrorist attacks against Georgia citizens, engage in ethnic cleansing, and in general, to aggress towards Georgia about like the Chechens aggress towards Russia. So in the realm of "who provoked who first," I don't think any fair-minded person can dump the major blame anywhere but on the heads of the resurgency-minded Russian emperor, Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin.
(Yes, I know that the current president of the Russian Federation is Dmitry Medvedev; but as I've said since the "big switch" this year, and as has now conclusively been proven, Putin leaving the presidency and becoming prime minister was just a ruse to get around term limits. He still controls Russia; Medvedev is simply Putin's catspaw.)
Putin still operates by the philosophy of the KGB, in which he was a rising star, in the Soviet Union he used to serve. Their strategy has always been to:
- Provoke trouble in some state or region they coveted;
- Then, in the guise of riding to the rescue of some Russian enclave somewhere, send an army to overturn an election;
- Then install their own man on the throne and dare anybody to do anything about it.
Thus, to me, it has been pretty clear from the first thrust that Russia desires nothing less than to reconquer Georgia, turning it once again into an unwilling satellite state to Russia, a slave-state run by a puppet government (or perhaps even directly by Russia itself).
Putin has expanded the war far beyond the borders of South Ossetia and Abkhazia and has even bombed Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia. And as John Hinderaker at Power Line noted over the weekend, Russia tried mightily -- and unsuccessfully, so far -- to destroy the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline, which runs from Azerbaijan through Georgia to Turkey, connecting the Caspian oil fields to the Mediterranian Sea, thence to the international oil markets.
But what to do, what to do? I know you're shocked -- but I actually have a suggestion: We need to accelerate NATO membership for former Soviet slave-states -- those that have now reorganized as democratic powers (not including Georgia until the war ends, since that would oblige us to immediately enter the war). And if current NATO member states threaten vetos, then we need to put as much pressure on them as it takes to change their minds... up to and including a counterthreat to veto any future action that member state might want.
I especially suggest accelerating membership for a few particular nations:
Ukraine is probably the most important of the breakaway Soviet states, and they're already on track to submit a "membership action plan" at the end of this year. Let's speed that up -- get our ambassador there, William B. Taylor, to go into marathon meetings with them to resolve any outstanding issues. The goal would be immediately to offer them either full membership or -- if Ukraine still wants to hold a national referendum -- some sort of "interim membership."
The threat is immediate and urgent: Ukraine is one of Russia's primary international seaports (on the Black Sea); in fact, Russian navy ships have left Ukrainian ports to launch attacks on Georgian ships. If Russia succeeds in reconquering Georgia, it would be tempted to turn around and seize the main Ukrainian naval base of Sevastopol as well. And possibly Odessa.
The Ukrainian ports of Odessa and Sevastopol are shared by Russia, and they're Russia's main access to the Mediterranean -- through the Strait of Bosphorus, the Sea of Marmara, and the Dardanelles (all controlled by Turkey, a NATO member since 1952) to the Aegean Sea. If Ukraine were to deny Russian access to Sevastapol and Odessa -- and if Ukraine could make it stick, which would be much more plausible if they were members of NATO themselves -- this would be a staggering blow to Russia's military power... and a fitting punishment for starting a war of aggression against Georgia.
If Russia began threatening them anyway, despite NATO membership, then we certainly could decide to engage in joint Naval and Marine maneuvers with our newest military ally, right?
I think we have a very good entre to the current Ukrainian president, Viktor Andriyovych Yushchenko: During the 2004 presidential election, Yushchenko was poisoned with dioxin by political allies of his main rival, Prime Minister Viktor Fedorovych Yanukovych... who is widely considered to be Putin's toady. I suspect that President Yushkenko does not feel particuarly friendly towards Russia nowadays... especially if he looks at what's happening in Georgia and wonders, rationally enough, whether Ukraine is next on the menu.
Moldova is nowhere near as important as Ukraine; but it's also saddled with Russian "peacekeeping" forces. They have settled like a miasma in Transnistria, another breakaway Russian-leaning province or republic (the status is not yet settled). It is one of the four main "frozen conflicts" of ethnic Russian regions (or ethnic Armenian, in the case of Nagorno-Karabakh) which are trying to break away from their current countries and join Russia (Armenia) instead:
- South Ossetia (Georgia)
- Abkhazia (Georgia)
- Transnistria (Moldova)
- Nagorno-Karabakh (Azerbaijan)
I certainly don't think we should weigh in on the side of Moldova and Azerbaijan in their conflicts with their ethnic separatists; but we could offer expanded trade deals and military cooperation, both to cushion the blow of losing those regions -- and more important, to negate any military advantage the Russians might gain from separation.
In particular, we must slam the door on Russia's main plan: Using the Russian-leaning regions in the "frozen conflicts" as springboards for an attempt to reconquer the former Soviet satellites, as they appear to be doing in Georgia. NATO membership is a very quick and unambiguous way of doing so, since an attack by Russia on a NATO member would bring other NATO members into the war, including the United States, Great Britain, and of course Turkey.
Azerbaijan (and Armenia)
As above, Azerbaijan is another country with a "frozen conflict." In addition, Azerbaijan is the other victim in Russia's attempting bombing of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline (Baku is the largest port, the largest city, and the capital of Azerbaijan): Without that pipeline, Azerbaijan would have no way of bringing their oil to market other than turning to Russia, which would charge a horrendous price. The Azeri are not stupid; they know what a Russian victory in Georgia would do.
Then there was the war with Armenia over Nagorno-Karabakh. Initially, the Soviet Union seemed to favor Azerbaijan; but after the collapse of the USSR, Russia increasingly supported the Armenian separatists, both with regular forces and with mercenaries. (In fact, both Armenia and Azerbaijan accused the Russians of playing both sides to keep the West from extending NATO into the Caucasus.)
Azerbaijan is problematical as a NATO member. It's a Shiite Moslem country, though not part of the Iranian axis; it appears more aligned with Turkey and Georgia than Iran, working with them on both the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline and the South Caucasus natural-gas pipeline.
More dicey is the autocratic rule of "President" Ilham Aliyev, son of Soviet-era strongman Heydar Aliyev who came to power in a coup d'état against democratically elected President Abulfaz Elchibey in 1993. Aliyev the lesser continues rattling his scimitar against Armenia and has recently escalated the military clashes.
However, Armenia also is moving towards NATO membership; so we could probably mitigate any bad feelings by pushing to induct them both simultaneously. This would probably give Putin a myocardial infarction... or at least a serious case of acid reflux.
John McCain called for Russia to be expelled from the Group of Eight, the international economic-political forum that is held every year. Barack H. Obama, continuing his reactionary campaign -- McCain speaks, Obama hems and haws, then finally gainsays whatever McCain said -- came out against expulsion, on the grounds that we need Putin's cooperation, Obama says, in the fight against "nuclear proliferation"... though in the most urgent of such cases, it sure appears to many that Russia is more on Iran's side than on the side of non-proliferation.
McCain wants to strip Russia of G8 membership not only because of its invasion of Georgia, but also because of the steady and accelerating erosion of fundamental rights and liberties within Russia itself. But it certainly is another, rather more drastic action we can take. (It's more drastic to try to kick Russia out of an international organization to which they were just formally admitted 11 years ago than to invite Russia's intended victims into an alliance that was formed to counter the erstwhile Soviet Union.)
As an aside, Obama's floundering on this issue demonstrates beyond all doubt that the man is simply not prepared, or equipped by nature, to lead the United States of America. When an emergency arises, the president must respond swiftly; we can't wait around for Obama to decide which liberal special-interest group to kow-tow to this time.
Bram Stoker rules
So we do actually have a number of actions we can take against the resurgent Russian empire, so long as we can induce our longtime allies to go along with us. With the increasingly brazen invasion of Georgia, that looks a lot more likely now than it did even just a week ago.
But if we do nothing, if we allow Vladimir Putin to get away with such naked aggression and empire building, then in a very short period of time, the Soviet Union itself will rise again, vampire-like, from the dead past... a very apt and worrisome image in the land of Vlad.
Hatched by Dafydd on this day, August 11, 2008, at the time of 5:35 PM
TrackBack URL for this hissing: http://biglizards.net/mt3.36/earendiltrack.cgi/3191
Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Georgia On My Mind:
» ロシアのグルジア侵略拡大する from In the Strawberry Field
The English version of this post can be read here. 世界中がオリンピックで浮かれている隙に、なんとロシアはお隣のグルジアに侵略。（英語ではグルジアはアメリカの州と同じでジョージアと発音する。）これについてミスター苺がBig Lizardsで詳細に渡って書いているのでそこから紹介しよう。 Georgia On My Mind（ジョージアを想う） ミスター苺著 俺はソ連帝国の時代からロシアにはあまりいい感情を持っていない。ソビエト連盟が崩壊した時も高見の... [Read More]
Tracked on August 12, 2008 7:57 AM
» Georgia On My Mind, Part II from Wizbang
Earlier today, I talked about the reactions of President Bush and Senators McCain and Obama to the Russian invasion of Georgia. At the end of that, I said that I'd... [Read More]
Tracked on August 13, 2008 2:04 PM
The following hissed in response by: Zelsdorf2
Take it to DEFCON 3. Put our B2 and B1 forces on full alert then tell the Russians to get out of Georgia. Let us see just how badly they want that real estate.
The following hissed in response by: Norman Rogers
Give credit where it's due. Putin masterminded this trap for Georgia. And now the world knows that the Red Army and Navy are again strategic forces (given enough time to scrape the rust off).
In a few weeks Russia will withdraw to its newly annexed territories and Putin will be hailed as a man of peace.
The following hissed in response by: Karmi
I'm not shocked that Barack H. Obama cannot make up his mind but leans towards the creeping totalitarianism of Russia, in which he perhaps sees a good model for America under himself.
Yep...Obama is a serious threat already, and now he has a new role model!
But if we do nothing..
Not a lot can be done. Half the country already supports the Terrorists, and they are not about to allow anyone to get in Putin's way...
The above hissed in response by: Karmi at August 12, 2008 5:49 AM
The following hissed in response by: LarryD
It's not all going Putin's way, see Power and Control for a counterpoint.
Short version: Putin's been planning this for a while, but it didn't start on his timetable. Russia is now extended, which also means it's ability to respond elsewhere is restricted.
The following hissed in response by: rightwingprof
Good article, except that your tense is wrong. The USSR rose again when the KGB was elected.
The above hissed in response by: rightwingprof at August 12, 2008 6:49 AM
The following hissed in response by: Geoman
Georgia is all about oil and Kosovo. Russia wants to control the flow of oil to Europe from Azerbaijan, and they want to "pay back" the west for their support of independent Kosovo.
My advice to Georgia - keep the oil flowing and your powder dry, for now. My instinct is not to make Georgia a NATO member (which would escalate the situation), but to Afghan size the conflict, i.e. begin arming the Georgians heavily with anti-tank and anti-airplane missiles and other advanced weaponry.
The following hissed in response by: David M
The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the - Web Reconnaissance for 08/12/2008 A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention, updated throughout the day...so check back often.
The above hissed in response by: David M at August 12, 2008 11:47 AM
The following hissed in response by: nk
Have I already said how much I hate it when the only comment I can make on your post is "Well said"?
The above hissed in response by: nk at August 12, 2008 4:17 PM
The following hissed in response by: nk
Wait, wait. I've got one. Catherine the Great promised my collateral (obviously) ancestors support if they rose up against the Ottoman Empire and then did not deliver. The men were slaughtered and the women and children were enslaved. Solzhenitzyn said it relatively recently: The essential nature of the Russian state is betrayal (treachery).
The above hissed in response by: nk at August 12, 2008 4:27 PM
The following hissed in response by: Karmi
Bill Clinton set the precedent for supporting secessionist groups...with Kosovo. Vladimir Putin’s Russia is using that precedent to support the secessionists group in Georgia, and to show the whole world that the Balance of Power has shifted.
To top-it-off, Nancy Pelosi is still insisting that 'W' release the Strategic Petroleum Reserves, even after seeing the invasion of Georgia!?!
The above hissed in response by: Karmi at August 12, 2008 8:57 PM
The following hissed in response by: MikeR
I sympathize with Georgia, but we're not really going to stand up to Russia on this one. They are a major power, and in that region the major power, and we're not going to fight a war over it. After a little yelling and shows of support on our part and such, Russia will probably give autonomy to the disputed area, and (maybe) force a regime change in Georgia to one more to their liking.
There is a big difference between Russia and the Soviet Union. We were fighting the Soviet Union's attempt to conquer the world for Communism. Russia wants to dominate its neighbors, and I doubt we'll fight them about that.
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