Russia & Georgia

Written by  //  October 25, 2008  //  Europe & EU, Middle East & Arab World, Russia, U.S.  //  3 Comments on Russia
Georgia-Russia conflict (BBC)
Russia & Georgia another viewpoint
The Crisis in Georgia, Strategic Datalink, Canadian International Council (with thanks to Frank Kruzich)

Complicated Task for Critics of Georgian Leader
TBILISI, Georgia — With less than two weeks remaining before Nov. 7, the first anniversary of a government crackdown on demonstrators, Georgian opposition figures remain split on whether to call for the public to take to the streets to protest Mikheil Saakashvili’s government.
The war with Russia in August is Exhibit A in their critique of Mr. Saakashvili, whose popularity has sustained damage in the past year. But it has also strengthened the president’s hand: Fury at Russia has swamped other political issues, and Georgians may see the opposition as fulfilling wishes — or orders — from Moscow. Meanwhile, the grinding anxiety of the past two months has left Georgians with little taste for civil unrest.
13 September
Russian troops have withdrawn from the Georgian port of Poti on the country’s Black Sea coast.

Trucks and armoured vehicles had left the town and other bases in western Georgia and were seen heading towards the separatist territory of Abkhazia.
Russia has agreed to an EU-backed truce requiring it to withdraw troops from bases inside the undisputed territory of Georgia.
12 September
Loan to Georgia Illustrates Asian Dismay With Russia
HONG KONG — The executive board of the Asian Development Bank, representing countries from Japan and China to Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, unanimously approved a $40 million loan to Georgia at the lowest possible interest rate on Friday, the latest sign of Asian dissatisfaction with Russian military action there.
9 September
Russia plans 7,600 force in Georgia rebel regions
MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia’s military announced plans on Tuesday to station about 7,600 troops in Georgia’s separatist regions, a sharp increase on the numbers deployed before Moscow sent in troops last month.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said troops would stay in South Ossetia and Abkhazia for a long time to prevent any “repeat of Georgian aggression.”
8 September
Rodrigue Tremblay presents a cogent argument for a “wag-the-dog” explanation of the origins of the Georgia-Russia confrontation.
6 September
Cheney bashes Russia for ‘brutality’ in Georgia
Cheney visited Georgia this week, telling President Mikheil Saakashvili that the United States will help the country rebuild its government and economy. The U.S. has promised $1 billion in relief to Georgia.
Russia has accused the U.S. of propping up Georgia in order to have an ally in the region.
4 September
Europe stands up to Russia
The European Union has wobbled woefully, yet Russia too will pay dearly for its Georgian adventure

(The Economist) There is no new iron curtain descending across Europe, no ideologically based “new cold war”; but there is a deep, wounding division that stretches far beyond wrecked Georgia, South Ossetia and Abkhazia. …from Tallinn on the Baltic to Tbilisi and beyond, the violence of the past month, along with Russia’s assertions of its “privileged interests” in its far-flung neighbourhood, has done more damage to relations between Russia and the West than Russia’s leaders think they need to care about and many Europeans care to admit.
Cheney attacks ‘illegitimate’ Russian invasion on visit to Georgia
(The Guardian) US vice-president holds talks with Georgian president, raising ‘grave doubts’ about Russia’s reliability as international partner
2 September
Putin’s Ruthless Gambit
The Bush Administration Falters in a Geopolitical Chess Match
(Information Clearing House) Many Western analysts have chosen to interpret the recent fighting in the Caucasus as the onset of a new Cold War, with a small pro-Western democracy bravely resisting a brutal reincarnation of Stalin’s jack-booted Soviet Union. Others have viewed it a throwback to the age-old ethnic politics of southeastern Europe, with assorted minorities using contemporary border disputes to settle ancient scores.
Neither of these explanations is accurate. To fully grasp the recent upheavals in the Caucasus, it is necessary to view the conflict as but a minor skirmish in a far more significant geopolitical struggle between Moscow and Washington over the energy riches of the Caspian Sea basin — with former Russian President (now Prime Minister) Vladimir Putin emerging as the reigning Grand Master of geostrategic chess and the Bush team turning out to be middling amateurs, at best.
Saakashvili a ‘political corpse’
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has described his Georgian counterpart as a “political corpse”, saying Moscow does not recognise him as president.
August 29
Putin lashes out, blames U.S. for Georgia conflict
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin lashed out at Washington Thursday, accusing the Bush administration of orchestrating the conflict in Georgia as a means to aid a candidate in the upcoming U.S. presidential elections. Russia has been struggling to counter universal condemnation in the international community for its military and political actions to support Georgian separatist regions. The New York Times (8/29)
An isolationist ideology triumphs in Russia, but the war in Georgia brings reverberations at home

(The Economist) With its troops still in Georgia, Russia has also made a mockery of the French-negotiated ceasefire. The war has cemented the victory of isolationist ideology in Russia, which will shape both domestic politics and foreign relations for years to come.
August 25
Georgia and Kosovo: A Single Intertwined Crisis
(Stratfor) The Russo-Georgian war was rooted in broad geopolitical processes. In large part it was simply the result of the cyclical reassertion of Russian power. The Russian empire … collapsed in 1992. …  It was inevitable that Russia would, in due course, want to reassert its claims. That it happened in Georgia was simply the result of circumstance.
There is, however, another context within which to view this, the context of Russian perceptions of U.S. and European intentions and of U.S. and European perceptions of Russian capabilities. This context shaped the policies that led to the Russo-Georgian war. And those attitudes can only be understood if we trace the question of Kosovo, because the Russo-Georgian war was forged over the last decade over the Kosovo question.
August 23
Georgia fails to escape its past
(BBC analysis) A modern country dragged back into its own history
For the people of Georgia, any optimism about the future has been suddenly displaced by uncertainty and worries from the past, as its conflict with Russia ends in swift defeat and humiliation.
Hope for UN mediation of Georgia conflict dwindles as veto threat looms
With Russia and the U.S. both threatening to veto any action taken by the UN, the two nations seem headed toward a diplomatic showdown. The UN’s refugee chief visited South Ossetia and said that some 158,000 refugees should be allowed to return home. Tens of thousands of people are living in centers around Tbilisi, and while $11 million in aid has reached Georgia, the Russian military has not allowed its distribution beyond certain cities, including Gori. The Guardian (London) (8/22)
August 21
(RCI) Russia has halted all military co-operation with NATO. The alliance says it has received notification that Russia’s defence ministry had decided to halt international military co-operation between Russia and NATO countries until further notice. The United States says the Russian move is unfortunate. NATO had already suspended co-operation in protest against Russia’s continued military presence in Georgia. On Tuesday,  NATO foreign ministers made further ties with Russia dependent on Moscow honouring its pledge to pull its troops back to pre-conflict positions in Georgia.
August 20
Bernard-Henri Lévy: What I Saw In Georgia

(Huffington Post) President Saakashvili, accompanied by his counselor Daniel Kunnin, listens to my story. We are in the Presidential residence of Avlabari. It is two AM but the noria of his counselors is working as it would during business hours. He is young. Very young. With a youthfulness which can be seen in the impatience of his movements, the intensity of his gaze, his abrupt laughter, even the way he guzzles cans of Red Bull as if it were Coca-Cola. All of these people in fact are very young. All these ministers and counselors were students sponsored by various Soros-type foundations, whose studies at Yale, Princeton and Chicago were interrupted by the Rose Revolution. He is a francophile and speaks French. Keen on philosophy. A democrat. A European. A liberal in both the American and European senses of the word. Of all the great resistance fighters I have met in my life, of all the Massouds and Izetbegovics I have had occasion to defend, he is the one who is the most unfamiliar with war … – but he is dealing with it.
Pat Buchanan on the Georgia-Russia Conflict

(Truthdig) “Blowback From Bear-Baiting” — For reasons too numerous to fit into a short summary, Pat Buchanan isn’t someone whose writings we’d routinely pick up on this site. However, in this case his essay about the Georgia-Russia conflict, er, bears repeating here, if only to illustrate how not all conservatives see the recent clash in Eastern Europe the way the Bush administration does.
August 19
NATO tells Moscow: No business as usual now
(IHT) BRUSSELS: After emergency talks here, NATO foreign ministers on Tuesday urged Russia to withdraw its troops from Georgia immediately, saying there could be no “business as usual” between the alliance and the Kremlin until it does so.
After the meeting, NATO announced the formation of a new commission intended to strengthen the alliance’s ties with Georgia.
Russia’s Global Status Is at Stake in Cease-Fire, U.S. Says
Aug. 17 (Bloomberg) — Russia’s future in global institutions such as the World Trade Organization depends on its compliance with an agreement to immediately withdraw troops from Georgia, two top U.S. officials said.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice urged Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to “keep his word” on pulling troops back from Georgian territory, saying he has failed to comply so far. Defense Secretary Robert Gates cited a “menu” of measures Russia might face should it violate the terms of a cease fire.
While it’s too early to discuss specifics such as Russia’s aspirations to join the WTO, “there’s clearly a menu available to the West” of consequences that can be imposed, Gates said today on ABC’s “This Week” program. “We now have time to consider carefully with our allies what actions we want to take.”
West in united front over Georgia
By Charles Clover in Tbilisi and Catherine Belton in Tskhinvali
(FT) Western leaders formed a united front on Sunday as they increased pressure on Russia to live up to its pledge to withdraw from Georgian territory in accordance with a ceasefire signed at the weekend.
Dmitry Medvedev, Russia’s president, told Nicolas Sarkozy, his French counterpart, that Russian forces would begin their withdrawal on Monday, moving towards South Ossetia and a security zone that roughly coincides with its borders, according to the Kremlin.
Fear of Russian ‘protection’ spreads to Ukraine and the Baltic
(The Guardian) Part of Russia’s justification for wresting control of South Ossetia from Georgia is that many of the region’s residents hold Russian passports. The Kremlin was therefore – so it claims – protecting its citizens from Georgian aggression.
That line sends ripples of alarm throughout the former Soviet Union, where many states that became independent in 1991 took sizable Russian populations with them. Ukraine, Latvia, Estonia, Moldova and Kazakhstan, for example, have much to fear if the Kremlin sees their hosting of a Russian diaspora as a licence to ignore their borders.
The problem is not just one of nationality. ‘Russianness’ is an elastic concept, covering millions who speak Russian as their first language but who, in the Soviet era, were classified as Belarussians, Ukrainians, Jews or Ossetians. To make matters worse, many of the areas where Russians or Russian-speakers predominate are the subject of territorial disputes that pre-date even the USSR.
August 16
Iran gambles over Georgia’s crisis
By Kaveh L Afrasiabi
Representing a serious new rift in US-Russia relations, the conflict in the Caucasus, paralyzing the UN Security Council and igniting Cold War-type rhetoric between the two military superpowers, is simultaneously a major distraction from the Iran nuclear crisis and may even spell doom for the multilateralist “Iran Six” diplomacy. This involves the US, Britain, Russia, France, China and Germany in negotiations over Iran’s uranium-enrichment program, which some believed is aimed at making nuclear weapons.
Much depends on the scope and duration of the Georgia crisis and, yet, there is also the obverse possibility that Moscow, intent on polishing its tarnished image – as a rogue power coercing its smaller neighbors and violating their territorial sovereignty – may even double its efforts on other fronts to compensate for the damage to its international standing, given the US’s threat of kicking Russia out of the Group of Eight.
Key Georgian railway bridge blown up in spite of ceasefire, vice PM says
Georgia claims Russian-backed separatists have seized 13 Georgian villages

(CBC) Russian troops blew up a railway bridge on Georgia’s vital main rail line Saturday after Russia’s president signed a ceasefire agreement designed to end the fighting, Georgia’s vice-prime minister says.
Giorgi Baramidze led a group of journalists to view damage to the bridge, which he said was blown up about noon local time on Saturday.
The Georgians said they have pictures of Russian soldiers planting the explosives, the CBC’s Mike Hornbrook reported. They also said they discovered explosives at two other key bridges, but were able to defuse them. Russia denies any involvement.

Bernard Kouchner: The France’s Foreign Minister turns negotiator in Georgia’s conflict
(Independent) For four decades, Bernard Kouchner, 68, has been, depending on your viewpoint, a global visionary or a global busybody. Forty years ago this year, as a radical, young doctor, Bernard Kouchner went straight from a leading role in the May 1968 student protests to West Africa to treat victims of the Nigerian civil war. His experiences in Biafra led directly to his co-foundation of Médecins sans Frontières, which he later abandoned in favour of a more political, rather than mostly humanitarian, approach to suffering in the Third World.
In the early 1990s, he wrote a kind of manifesto on the moral right, even duty, of democratic countries to interfere in the internal politics of oppressive nations. The Kouchner manifesto is said to have directly influenced, among others, Bill Clinton, Tony Blair and the American neo-cons.

August 15
Géorgie-Russie, les enjeux de la crise
(Le Monde diplomatique) … les candidats à la présidence américaine — le républicain John McCain et le démocrate Barack Obama, par la voix de son conseiller en politique étrangère Zbigniew Brzezinski — ont dénoncé l’objectif caché de la Russie dans ce conflit armé : rayer la Géorgie de la carte énergétique, et imposer ainsi la Fédération de Russie comme seul et unique territoire de transit des hydrocarbures en provenance des pays producteurs d’Asie centrale et du Caucase. Le deuxième pipeline le plus large au monde, le Bakou-Tbilissi-Ceyhan (BTC), qui relie les champs pétroliers de la Caspienne au port turc de Ceyhan, en Méditerranée, en passant par l’Azerbaïdjan et le sud de la Géorgie, a été fermé début août en raison d’une explosion sur la partie de l’oléoduc située en Turquie de l’est.
August 14
(The Economist) Russia and Georgia signed a ceasefire after five days of war. The deal was brokered by the French president, Nicolas Sarkozy. Georgian forces were pulled out of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, leaving the Russians in control of both breakaway Georgian enclaves. Despite the ceasefire, Russian troops and tanks continued to attack targets inside Georgia proper but, after a stark warning from the Americans, they later pulled back.
See article
Russia pledges support for separatist enclaves
Reports of chaos and banditry between the lines
Georgian leaders have accused Russia of continuing to occupy key areas of the country, as Russia pledged to support two separatist enclaves, raising fears it may want to absorb them.
Russian President Dmitri Medvedev met the leaders South Ossetia, and another Russian-dominated separatist region, Abkhazia, on Thursday in Moscow. He said that Moscow will “support any decision taken” by the peoples of the two provinces, even though the territory is internationally recognized as being within Georgia’s borders.
A scripted war
Both sides are to blame for the Russian-Georgian war, but it ran according to a Russian plan
GORI was Stalin’s birthplace. Did his statue in Stalin Square smile approvingly on Vladimir Putin as Russian tanks rolled past and the few residents left wandered around the bombed ghost town, without purpose? In 1921 the Bolsheviks occupied Georgia. Now Russia, for the first time since the collapse of the Soviet Union, had invaded a sovereign country.
Georgia was once the jewel of its empire, and Russia has never psychologically accepted it as a sovereign state. Nostalgia for the Soviet empire has long been the leitmotif of Russia’s ideology. This month it re-enacted its fantasy with aircraft and ground troops. It occupied Abkhazia and South Ossetia, the two separatist regions of Georgia, blockaded the vital port of Poti, sank Georgian vessels, destroyed some infrastructure, blocked the main east-west highway and bombed and partially occupied towns in Georgia, including Gori.
August 13
Conflict with Russia a potential threat to critical Georgia-Turkey pipeline
Der Spiegel interviews Richard Morningstar, chief negotiator for the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline during the Clinton administration, who discusses Russia’s frustrations with the pipeline and how it could become a factor in the conflict with Georgia. Spiegel Online (8/13)
U.S. flies aid into Georgia, backs ceasefire

TBILISI (Reuters) – U.S. military planes began delivering aid to Georgia as Washington stepped up support for a shaky ceasefire with Russian troops around the breakaway region of South Ossetia.
Russia, in Accord With Georgians, Sets Withdrawal
The presidents of Georgia and Russia agreed early Wednesday morning on a framework that could end the war that flared up here five days ago, after Russia reasserted its traditional dominance of the region.
Russian airstrikes continued during the day on Tuesday, however, and antagonisms seethed on both sides.
Declaring that “the aggressor has been punished,” President Dmitri A. Medvedev announced early Tuesday that Russia would stop its campaign. By 2 a.m. on Wednesday, he and his Georgian counterpart, Mikheil Saakashvili, had agreed to a plan that would withdraw troops to the positions they had occupied before the fighting broke out. Whether the agreement holds or not, Russia has achieved its goals, effectively creating a new reality on the ground, humiliating the Georgian military and increasing the pressure on a longtime antagonist, Mr. Saakashvili.
August 10
Russia takes S.Ossetian capital, Georgia pulls back
TSKHINVALI, Georgia (Reuters) – Russian troops and tanks took the capital of the separatist Georgian region of South Ossetia on Sunday after a bloody three-day battle as Georgian forces retreated and offered a ceasefire.
August 8
Georgia, Russia on brink of war
After Georgia took strong steps against South Ossetian separatists — sending a peacekeeping military operation to Tskhinvali — Georgians and South Ossetians agreed to emergency talks and a truce. Hours later, both sides were trading fire and Russia had entered the fray. Tbilisi has said that it considers itself in a state of war with Moscow, after it was reported that Russian tanks, trucks and troops were traveling through North Ossetia to South Ossetia. Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin promised a response and also called an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council. Some reports suggest that Russian jets have already begun attacking Georgia, firing on an airport near Tbilisi. BBC (8/8) , Financial Times (8/8)
Georgia’s war worries

Why Georgia does not want a war with South Ossetia
(The Economist) Establishing precisely what happened in South Ossetia in recent days is difficult, as the two sides’ accounts differ markedly and there are few independent third-party sources. The risks of a broader conflagration, for the moment, remain limited to the possibility that events on the ground escalate out of control, presenting the political leaderships involved with a fait accompli. Otherwise, for Georgia, a war over South Ossetia does not seem worthwhile, in the sense that the benefits are outweighed by the likely costs. It would almost certainly deprive the country of Western support and deliver a huge blow to the country’s EU and NATO membership hopes. It would kill any chance of a negotiated solution to the Abkhaz conflict for the foreseeable future. And it would invite massive Russian retaliation.
Russian Troops Enter Rebel Enclave
(NYT) GORI, Georgia — Russian troops entered a breakaway region of Georgia on Friday after Georgian forces pushed into the capital of the pro-Russian enclave, in a sharp escalation of the longstanding conflict.
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir V. Putin declared that “war has started” and President Mikheil Saakashvili of Georgia accused Russia of a “well-planned invasion,” saying he had mobilized Georgia’s military reserves.
Reports conflicted Friday about whether Georgian or Russian forces had won control of the capital of the rebel province, South Ossetia. It was unclear late Friday whether ground combat had taken place between the two sides in the capital, Tskhinvali.

3 Comments on "Russia & Georgia"

  1. Nino Marshania August 13, 2008 at 6:15 am ·

    Dear Friends,
    According to the latest news from Georgia. Russia is brutally violating ceasefire. Cities of Gori and Poti have been bombed this morning. Villages Tkviavi and Karaleti have been raided by the Russian army and all the men were taken hostage. Russians have also sunk 2 Georgian ships in Poti. Please I am asking you to come and join our peaceful demonstration in front of the Russian consulate on Friday at 7!!!! We have to demand peace and make this stop!!!! People are being killed right this moment! Violence has to stop!!!
    Demosntration will be held in front of Russian Consulate 3655 avenue du Musée, Montreal at 7p.m. this Friday!!! Nino

  2. David Mitchell August 14, 2008 at 5:47 pm ·

    [We can always count on David Mitchell to find views opposing the common ‘take’ on news items]
    Hi Diana,
    You probably knew this but I didn’t. Look up “Russian cameraman: CNN Aired Misleading Footage”. According to this report, a Russian cameraman’s footage of Georgian troops attacking Russian citizens in Tskhinvali was sold to CNN who used it erroneously to show this “Russian brutality in Gori”. Honest mistake?? … doubtful.
    You might also find Two Morons: Bush and Saakashvili by Paul Craig Roberts worth a read.
    Paul Craig Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan administration. He was Associate Editor of the Wall Street Journal editorial page and Contributing Editor of National Review. He is coauthor of The Tyranny of Good Intentions.

  3. David Mitchell OWN August 14, 2008 at 7:57 pm ·

    More from David, the Contrarian
    War in the Caucasus is as much the product of an American imperial drive as local conflicts. It’s likely to be a taste of things to come
    Seumas Milne
    The Guardian,
    The outcome of six grim days of bloodshed in the Caucasus has triggered an outpouring of the most nauseating hypocrisy from western politicians and their captive media. As talking heads thundered against Russian imperialism and brutal disproportionality, US vice-president Dick Cheney, faithfully echoed by Gordon Brown and David Miliband, declared that “Russian aggression must not go unanswered”. George Bush denounced Russia for having “invaded a sovereign neighbouring state” and threatening “a democratic government”. Such an action, he insisted, “is unacceptable in the 21st century”.
    Could these by any chance be the leaders of the same governments that in 2003 invaded and occupied … the sovereign state of Iraq on a false pretext at the cost of hundreds of thousands of lives? Or even the two governments that blocked a ceasefire in the summer of 2006 as Israel pulverised Lebanon’s infrastructure and killed more than a thousand civilians in retaliation for the capture or killing of five soldiers?
    You’d be hard put to recall after all the fury over Russian aggression that it was actually Georgia that began the war last Thursday with an all-out attack on South Ossetia to “restore constitutional order” – in other words, rule over an area it has never controlled since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Nor, amid the outrage at Russian bombardments, have there been much more than the briefest references to the atrocities committed by Georgian forces against citizens it claims as its own ….

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