Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Georgia: Another form of blowback..

This is from the NY. Times.
As a result of empowering and arming the jihadists against the former Soviet Union in Afghanistan the U.S. is now facing the so-called war on terror as the jihadists target the U.S. and others in the west. The U.S. has been active in fomenting change or as the U.S. likes to put it promoting democracy everywhere on the borders of Russia where it can. Many of the resulting regimes are actively supported by the US and its allies such as Israel even though their democratic credentials may be somewhat tarnished by authoritarian moves. Georgia is a good example. All of this has the effect of ringing Russia round with governments that are helped or even propped up by the U.S. and unfriendly to Russia. The U.S. and Israel have helped arm and train the Georgian armed forces. The U.S. has urged on Georgia's bid to join NATO. The U.S. has forged ahead with the missile defence system in Eastern Europe and paid no attention to Russia's complaints.
Georgia's president brought matters to a head by trying to re-take South Ossetia which has been autonomous for over a decade. Now we see the blowback. Russia has replied by driving Georgians out of South Ossetia but Akbazia as well and also destroying much of Georgia's military infrastructure. The West can bleat and bray all it wants but Russia is giving notice that it will not sit idly by when the west continues to ignore Russia's own desires and interests. The Cold War is back and the same tired crapola rhetoric will be gushing out of the western presses. Too bad oil could not be produced so easily. No doubt there is a bright side to all this as arms manufacturers will see a boom in new military hardware sales to Georgia.

August 13, 2008
Russia Orders Halt in Georgia as Fighting Continues
MOSCOW — President Dmitri A. Medvedev of Russia announced Tuesday that he had ordered a halt to his country’s military operation in Georgia, although he did not say that troops were pulling out and he insisted that Russian forces were still authorized to fire on enemies in South Ossetia.
The president said Russia had achieved its military goals during five days of intense fighting, which has seen Russian troops advance into Georgian territory and which brought strong denunciations from President Bush and other Western leaders.
In a meeting with Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov shown on Russian television, Mr. Medvedev said: “The goal of the operation has been achieved. The security of our peacekeepers and civilians has been ensured.” But he also told Mr. Serdyukov to “eliminate” any enemy remaining in South Ossetia.
“Whenever hotbeds of resistance and other aggressive plans emerge, make the decision and eliminate them,” he said.
The fighting appeared to continue in Georgia on Tuesday, and it was uncertain how quickly Mr. Medvedev’s statement would lead to an end to hostilities. Mr. Medvedev took the lead role in announcing the halt in contrast to previous days when the Russian prime minister, Vladimir V. Putin, was the dominant public figure in the crisis, even flying to the Georgian border to direct operations.
When asked about the cease-fire, Anatoly Nogovitsyn, a senior defense official, said military actions could continue.
“If you receive the order to cease fire, this would not mean that we would stop all operations, including reconnaissance operations,” he said. A Russian withdrawal will occur only once a formal cease-fire had been reached, he added.
Despite the uncertainties, President Nicholas Sarkozy of France, who was in Moscow in hopes of mediating the crisis, hailed Mr. Medvedev’s decision. Other senior Western officials said they thought a cease-fire was imminent. Mr. Sarkozy said it was “the news we expected. It’s good news.”
Alexander Stubb, the chair of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, said: “It means an end to military action if there is no retaliation. There is always a gap between rhetoric and reality. The way I read it is that military hostilities are about to end. Traditionally, we will see a few skirmishes, but frontal attacks and positioning will end.”
Mr. Stubb said the details of a cease-fire would be worked out during the course of the day.
However, on the ground in Georgia, fighting continued. In Poti, a port city in western Georgia, a New York Times correspondent heard bombs falling around an hour after Mr. Medvedev’s statement.
Residents and officials were tense as Russian troops drove through the city, talking to residents. They appeared to be digging into positions on the city’s outskirts. There were reports that Russian troops were engaged in similar activities in the western Georgian towns of Zugdidi and Kareli, an American official said.
About four miles outside Poti, a dozen armored vehicles guarded a bridge and the road onwards to Batumi, another Black Sea port. The troops, who spoke Russian and wore patches indicating they were paratroopers, said they were peacekeepers.
In Gori, a strategically important city in central Georgia, another Times reporter said the last bomb had fallen about an hour before Mr. Medvedev’s announcement.
Russian troops briefly seized a Georgian military base and took up positions close to Gori on Monday, raising Georgian fears of a full-scale invasion or an attempt to oust the country’s pro-Western president, Mikheil Saakashvili. On Tuesday, a bomb landed on Gori’s Stalin Square — named for the Soviet leader who was born in the city — killing five people. Attack helicopters buzzed through the sky, and ambulances sped through the city. The key road to the Georgian capital, Tbilisi, was completely cleared of Georgian forces Tuesday, except for broken and abandoned vehicles left behind in the retreat.
Georgian authorities also reported a continuation of the fighting, saying that Russian fighter jets bombarded two villages located outside South Ossetia in Georgia proper, although this could not be independently confirmed.
Over the past few days, Russian troops have also pushed into Abkhazia, the disputed enclave in the west of Georgia. On Tuesday, General Nogovitsyn, the senior defense official, did not say there would be a withdrawal from the Kodori Gorge, the only part of the territory where Georgia has military forces. “The relationship between forces on both sides will be decided later on,” he said. “This takes time, it will not be done overnight. Luckily, there were no hostilities in that area.”
The United States and its European allies have faced tough choices over how to push back against Russia’s actions. They have seemed uncertain about how to adjust to a new geopolitical game that has threatened to undermine two decades of democratic gains in countries that were once part of the Soviet sphere.
Mr. Bush, little more than an hour after returning to Washington from the Olympic Games in Beijing, bluntly warned Russia on Monday that its military operations were damaging its reputation and were “unacceptable in the 21st century.”
“Russia’s actions this week have raised serious questions about its intent in Georgia and the region,” he said. “These actions have substantially damaged Russia’s standing in the world, and these actions jeopardize relations with the United States and Europe.”
Administration officials said military options were almost certainly off the table, but the United States did airlift Georgian troops stationed in Iraq back home, answering a plea from the Georgian government and prompting a sharp response from Russia. Washington could also press to ostracize Moscow on the international stage, perhaps by kicking it out of the Group of 8 industrialized nations.
Yet there was no immediate indication that Western powers could exercise much leverage over Russia if it chose to ignore their warnings.
The country is enjoying windfall profits from oil exports and seems determined to reassert influence over Georgia and Ukraine, while sending a clear signal to other former satellite states that they should be wary of an overly cozy political and military alliance with the United States, analysts say.
“If the United States and Europe don’t stop Russia, I think this is the end of what we thought of as the post-Soviet era,” said Sarah Mendelson, a scholar at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.
George Friedman, chief executive of Stratfor, a geopolitical risk analysis firm, said: “The Russians feel they have been treated like dirt by the world for the last 20 years. Now, they’re back.”
Many experts in foreign policy say that one reason Russia responded so forcefully to Georgia’s attempt to take back South Ossetia is that the United States and Europe had been asserting themselves in Russia’s backyard, alienating Moscow by supporting Kosovo’s bid for independence.
These expert say that the Bush administration’s efforts to promote democracy, including backing Mr. Saakashvili as a beacon of democracy on Russia’s borders, may have emboldened the Georgian president to take provocative actions that brought a fierce Russian response.
Beyond that, Russia has also been angry about American plans to put a missile defense system in Poland, and by American moves to encourage Georgia and Ukraine to join NATO.
“The combination is that the overall means with which we’ve dealt with the Russians over the last two years have painted them into a corner so that it’s difficult for them not to see us as hostile,” said Michael Greig, conflict management specialist at the University of North Texas.
Few foreign-policy experts predict that Russia will ever recapture its days of Communist glory, global intimidation and military might; the world has changed and growing global powers like China and India will make a return to the cold war impossible.
But there is a growing belief in European capitals and in Washington that the return of Russia to a position of great power could mean a redrawing of the Eurasia map, with Europe and the United States giving up on attempts to integrate former Soviet republics in the Caucasus into the Western orbit, while battling with Russia to keep Eastern European countries like Poland and the Baltic states.
And Russia’s resurgence could mean an end to already-dwindling American and European hopes of bringing Russia along eventually as an ally of the West. At best, Russia would never be trusted; at worst, it would be seen as an adversary.
Even for an emboldened Moscow, the Russian foray into Georgia carries substantial risks: not just global isolation from the Western democracies, but also anger from neighboring states of the former Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact, the prospect of perpetual military quagmires around its borders, and nationalist reprisals like those that resulted from its crackdown in Chechnya.
A crowd of more than 1,000 people demonstrated in the Latvian capital, Riga, on Monday, while hundreds gathered in Tallinn, Estonia, and Vilnius, Lithuania, to press the West to adopt a tough stance toward Moscow. Leaders in Poland and the Czech Republic echoed that call.
Even as American and European leaders were demanding, begging and pleading with Russia to halt its advance into Georgia — foreign ministers from the world’s richest countries held an emergency conference call and notably excluded Russia’s foreign minister by limiting the group to the Group of 7, instead of the Group of 8 — diplomats were going through what one Bush administration official described as “not exactly the greatest hand of cards to have to play.”
At the United Nations, the Russians were dismissive of a draft resolution to end the fighting, which began to circulate among Security Council members. The Russians, who have veto power on the Council, said they were disappointed that they had not been consulted on the agreement as it was being drawn up and noted that there was no mention of “Georgian aggression.”
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice sent a mid-level State Department official, Matt Bryza, to the region to back up mediation efforts by Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner of France. Georgian officials urged their European counterparts to take more punitive steps, like ending plans to pursue a new strategic partnership with Moscow, and questioning the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia.
The Games in Sochi are a personal project for Mr. Putin, who favors Sochi as a summer and winter retreat, and skis in nearby mountains, close to the border with disputed Abkhazia.
But Democratic opponents of the Bush administration criticized the administration’s moves so far as weak. Richard C. Holbrooke, the former ambassador to the United Nations, noted that Mr. Sarkozy was leading the mediation efforts. Ms. Rice, Mr. Holbrooke said, should be on a plane to Moscow, particularly given the administration’s close ties to Georgia, and its encouragement of that country’s efforts to join NATO.
Ellen Barry and Thanassis Cambanis reported from Moscow and Helene Cooper from Washington. Andrew E. Kramer reported from Gori, Georgia, and Michael Schwirtz from Poti, Georgia. Reporting was also contributed by Marc Santora from the United Nations, Steven Lee Myers from Washington, and C. J. Chivers.

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