Crossposted from GRAFFITI POLITTI on Gather (08/11/08), with an update below:
South Ossetia was the flashpoint. Now, other provinces, notably Abkhazia, are also under seige. There are naval blockades, and other nations are denying port access to Russian vessels. The US is going to transport 2,000 Georgian troops from Iraq to Georgia. Russian Prime Minister Putin has said that Georgia's President Saakashvili "has to go," according to one press report.
Will this war result in a "regime change" in Georgia? How can it be averted? Was the "Rose revolution" totally in vain? Reality check: It's not 1968, and this ain't Prague. My US Dollars are still betting on freedom, in the longer term. In the near term, I see lots of fighting, death, and destruction. Same as it ever was.
There are some interesing angles to this story. Georgia was applying to become part of NATO. This should be a lesson not to accept any nations with "provincial" disputes with a former patron state, especially one as large as Russia. If Georgia was a NATO member, we would be obligated to fight the Russians. The flip side is that the Russians are doing this now to prevent Georgia from joining NATO.
Meanwhile, thousands of innocent people are dead. Will the world stand by, as a blossoming free nation gets mulched under the wheels of power-mad autocrats? Of course they will! Right now, Russia's plan seems to be "win on the ground," and then let the UN codify it.
My heart goes out to Georgians worldwide. I hope you have a country to go back to, and not "the Georgian Province of Russia." I feel as powerless as the UN, but I will criticize Russia.
UPDATED 08/13/08: It is important to note some other commentary on this war, from Ralph Peters, and John McCain. Both men have a grasp on the situation that is lacking in much of the political debate from the Democratic candidate, and the MSM (including PBS, to their shame).
First, some choice excerpts from Peters' latest pieces, from the NY Post:
"Working through their mercenaries in South Ossetia, Russia staged
brutal provocations against Georgia from late July onward. Last Thursday,
Georgia's president finally had to act to defend his own people."
"Yet our media give Putin the benefit of the doubt. Not one major
news outlet even bothers to take issue with Putin's wild claim that the
Georgians were engaged in genocide."
His sidebar piece totally disses the Russian military:
This campaign was supposed to be the big debut for the Kremlin's revitalized
armed forces (funded by the country's new petro-wealth). Well, the new Russian
military looks a lot like the old Russian military: slovenly and not ready for
Russia has been planning and organizing this invasion for months. And they're
pulling it off - but the military's embarrassing blunders must be infuriating
Prime Minister Putin.
Georgia itself, my friends, has a long and remarkable history. It was a
fourth-century convert to Christianity, one of the first nations on Earth to
convert to Christianity -- if you go to Georgia, as I have several times, you'll
see churches that go back to the fourth- and fifth-century -- and it's been a
part of the grand sweep that comprises Western civilization. But because of
their location, their history hasn't been easy. Through the centuries, they have
seen invasions and attacks from Mongols, Russians, Turks and Persians. And
through it all, they maintain their language, their cultural identity, and their
national pride. And as you know, they were part of the Soviet Union and were
able to achieve their independence when the Soviet Union disintegrated. And
they're facing terrible trials today, but they'll get through this, too.
And, my friends, and I'll talk about this more in a minute -- but they're at
a strategic crossroads. There's a pipeline, an oil pipeline,
Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan, which brings oil from the Caspian to points west and
traverses Georgia -- that's the very pipeline that the Russians tried to bomb.
And I don't have to tell you about the price of oil and disruption of oil
In this country -- it's that little country, a country whose territorial
integrity, independence and sovereignty NATO countries reaffirmed at their
summit in April -- terrible violence has occurred. Now let me just remind you
exactly what has taken place here.
On Friday, Russian tanks and troops moved through the Roki Tunnel, across an
internationally-recognized border, and into the Georgian province of South
Ossetia. Two years ago, I traveled to South Ossetia, my friends, and we went
through this barricade, and as soon as we got into this place, which the
Russians are maintaining hundreds and now thousands of troops, there's this huge
billboard and it said, 'Vladimir Putin, Our President.' Have no doubt about
Russian ambitions in this area.
The Russian government stated it was acting only to protect Ossetians, and
yet, on Saturday, its bombing campaign encompassed the whole of Georgia.
Hundreds of innocent civilians have been wounded and killed -- possibly
thousands. Military bases, apartment buildings, and other infrastructure all
came under Russian fire. And the Russian Black Sea Fleet began concentrating off
of the Georgian coast.
Before the weekend ended, Russian troops drove the Georgians out of South
Ossetia and stepped up their offensive in the region of Abkhazia -- Abkhazia is
another area that the Russians have controlled in violation of Georgian
territorial integrity. And Georgia asked for a ceasefire, and Russia responded
by bombing the Tbilisi Airport.
Yesterday, Russian troops advanced on one city after another. Gori, Senaki,
Poti, and other cities were attacked. In 2006, I visited Senaki and reviewed the
Georgian troops who had served with honor beside American soldiers in Iraq --
2,000 of them served beside American soldiers in Iraq, and we're proud of
President Medvedev stated that he has halted the offensive, but reports
indicate that Russian military forces have continued attacks in some areas and
the situation remains fluid and dangerous. Foreign Minister [Lavrov] announced
that Russia seeks regime change in Georgia, and that it's democratically-elected
president 'better go.'
In the face of this threat, the leaders of Poland, Estonia, Lithuania,
Ukraine and Latvia -- you know there's a common thread there amongst them, they
all suffered under Soviet domination -- they've all announced that they'll
travel to the region, and the French president is in Moscow in an attempt to
help resolve the crisis. They understand that it's a responsibility of the
leading nations of the world to ensure that history continues to record reform
and make progress toward respecting the values and security of all free
This is the situation in Georgia as we meet here this morning. The impact of
Russian actions goes beyond their threat to a democratic Georgia. Russia has
used violence against Georgia to send a signal to any country that chooses to
associate with the West and aspire to our shared political and economic
My friends, we learned at great cost the price of allowing aggression against
free nations to go unchecked. With our allies, we must stand in united purpose
to persuade the Russian government to withdraw its troops from Georgia. There
must be an independent, international peacekeeping force in the separatist
regions. And we should ensure that humanitarian aid can be airlifted to
Georgia's capital, and stand ready to help our Georgian partners put their
country back together. And we must make clear to Russia's leaders that the
benefits they enjoy from being part of the civilized world require their respect
for the values, stability, and piece of that world.
My friends, today the killing goes on and aggression goes on. Yet, I know
from speaking this morning to the President of Georgia, Misha Saakashvili, who
I've known for many years, that he knows that the thoughts and the prayers and
support of the American people are with that brave little nation as they
struggle today for their freedom and independence. And he wanted me to say thank
you to you, to give you his heartfelt thanks for the support of the American
people for this tiny little democracy far away from the United States of
America. And I told him that I know I speak for every American when I say to
him, today, we are all Georgians.
I'm with Senator McCain, and Col. Peters on this one. A final question: would Russia have done this if Georgia were already in NATO?