Monday :: Aug 11, 2008

Georgia On Everyone's Mind

by Jeff Dinelli

Since the fall of the USSR, it's been maddening trying to keep track of all of these little countries popping up declaring independence, and where their allegiance lies, with the West or with Russia. Since last week, of course, everyone's focus has been on two or three states; Georgia, which declared its independence in 1991, has been in near constant conflict with two breakaway regions, Abkhazia and the now very familiar South Ossetia (autonomous for over 10 years), whose claims of sovereignty are backed by Russia and supported by Russian troops on patrol.

In 2003-2004, the so-called "color revolutions" took place in Georgia and the Ukraine. Georgia was taken over, via supposedly democratic means, by Mikheil Saakashvili, who, besides believing South Ossetia was his, wanted strong ties with the West. Vladimir Putin saw these Western-like governments being set up all around him (Georgia borders Russia) and saw a potential ideological crisis. He decided that not only would these people NOT get into NATO, but they would remain Russian! And by the way, there will be no U.S. missle systems in Poland or the Czech Republic. Putin was beginning to feel a bit squeezed, a bit like post-war Germany, say, in 1920, when the U.S. and Britan were carving up the beaten country into stragically easy-to-conquer shapes, inventing nations, promising every culture/nationality a piece of the pie, or, more currently relevant, 2003 Iraq, and tensions between Russia and the pro-U.S. Georgia were boiling over.

Last week Russia accused Georgia of killing Russian soldiers in South Ossetia. Georgia said it was putting down separatist resistance while inexplicably trying to take South Ossetia by force, the end result of a feud that's been brewing for like 15 years. Now maybe someone can explain to me what Georgian President Saakashvili was thinking here. He didn't expect Russia to care? Or did he not think the Russian military could react swiftly enough to stop him? Painfully plainly speaking, the answers to both of these questions have been answered.

Didn't we do a similar thing to Serb-controlled Yugoslavia, convieniently while Russia was weakened? Did Russia see us (dangerously?) militarily bogged down in two insane wars and took this time to say, "You know? Let's keep that ball rolling downhill. There's a lot of nationalities over here that want independence, like the Ossetians and Abkhazis, and if they are loyal to Mother Russia, all the better. Now if we could just tidy up a couple of these pro-U.S. areas....."

You think I'm throwing shit around, seeing what will stick? Checked out the blogosphere today? McBush wants to know what Obama's doing in Hawaii. He says he's talked to Georgia twice today while Obama's building sand castles. Of course, the EU, UN and US diplomats have been in constant communication for at least the last 48 hours, but good job, John, You The Man. No matter that much of McCain's speech was plagiarized from Wikipedia, including the stirring point that Georgia happens to be "one of the world's first nations to adopt Christianity as an official religion." Robert Kagan, in the Washington Post, says that this is a historical moment which will be remembered forever, like the day the Nazis entered Czechoslovakia, or the falling of the Berlin Wall. Bill Kristol, out front of a bunch of saber-rattling conservatives including Dick Cheney, says what we need to do is go in there and kick Russia's ass.

My favorite moment was at the UN before the heavy fighting started, when the US ambassador said Russia planned to force a "regime change" in Georgia, to which his Russian counterpart, Vitaly Churkin, said, "No, that's an American concept" (Iraq, anyone?). Despite all the crying out in the wilderness and BushCo, with the mainstream media's loyal aid, attempting to make this out to be an innocent, fledgling democracy out there on its own like Bambie, Georgia has another thing coming if they have delusions of US forces riding to the rescue anytime soon. Where exactly would those troops come from? No, this is up to Russia. Georgia has had a couple of questionable elections, as have we, I guess I understand how they're so compatible with us. Funny how we favor the pro-U.S. democracies like Georgia, but if you're not so on-board with America, you're treated like crap, like Turkey. Innocent? The capital city of South Ossetia is gone. Flattened. Russia doesn't want an expansion of NATO in their region, and Georgia, again, is right on their border. We've seen this before with Chechnya. Finally, this is a human rights issue to the Russian people. Putin used the word "genocide" when describing what Georgia was doing to the Ossetians. After all the television footage Russians have seen of refugees lining highways trying to flee their territories, this is a Big Topic over there.

The United States is a revolutionary superpower, with a "Democracy At Any Cost" motto, while Russia has been more of a Status Quo superpower, which makes the situation a reversal of the Cold War. And by the way, some are predicting we're on our way back to one of those.

UPDATE: Here's what Bush had to say to Georgians when he visited (h/t to Marty Kaplan at HuffPo):

The path of freedom you have chosen is not easy, but you will not travel it alone. Americans respect your courageous choice for liberty. And as you build a free and democratic Georgia, the American people will stand with you.... [T]he sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia must be respected -- the territorial [sic] and sovereignty of Georgia must be respected by all nations.

No wonder they're crying out for help (rightfully so, with the protective quote here by W), by why the hell did they bomb South Ossetia?

And when are we going to get a casualty estimate from our media? Or have I missed it?

UPDATE II: Check out this quote from Putin. I think he just threw down:

Putin, shown on state television speaking to officials, said the West had manipulated the truth about the war to present the Georgians as the victims rather than the aggressors. Washington was hampering Moscow's efforts to find a way out of the conflict, he said.

"It is a shame that some of our partners are not helping us but, essentially, are hindering us," Putin said.

The very scale of this cynicism is astonishing -- the attempt to turn white into black, black into white and to adeptly portray victims of aggression as aggressors and place the responsibility for the consequences of the aggression on the victims."

Jeff Dinelli :: 7:28 PM :: Comments (14) :: Digg It!