Sunday, August 24, 2008

Saakashvili - Sorcerer's Apprentice

I liked this piece on the Georgia crisis, by Sir Rodric Braithwaite, a former British ambassador to Moscow and former chairman of the British Joint Intelligence Committee :

Here is a portion:

"There is a long, tangled, and disputed back history to all this. Georgia, like the former Yugoslavia, is an ethnic patchwork. The native Abkhazians are largely Muslim. The South Ossetians want to unite with their ethnic relations over the Russian border in North Ossetia. Neither liked being in Georgia, and as the Soviet Union broke up, both made a bid for independence. In an ironic parallel, the Georgians closed down the local university in the Abkhazian capital of Sukhumi just as the Serbs were closing down the Albanian university in Kosovo, on the grounds, one very distinguished Georgian philosopher said, that the Abkhazians had no proper language, history or culture, and did not need a university anyway. [Sounds familiar?]

Georgia's first democratically elected president, the disastrous Zviad Gamsakhurdia, then launched a vicious little war against Abkhazia, smashing its capital Sukhumi. But the Georgians were defeated by a combination of Abkhazians and "volunteers" from Russia and Chechnya. Tens of thousands of Georgian refugees fled to Tblisi. Much the same, though on a smaller scale, was happening in South Ossetia.

Various ceasefires were brokered, with Russian "peacekeepers" acting as guarantors. The ceasefires regularly broke down, thanks to provocations and intrigues by all sides. They were as regularly patched up again.

With the arrival of Mikheil Saakashvili, another democratically elected president, things began to go downhill. The Americans gave him political and economic support and advice, and equipped and trained his army. He turned out to be the Sorcerer's Apprentice, and outran American control. He provoked the Russians and the South Ossetians by one pinprick after another, and, above all, by his application to join Nato.
The Russians regularly warned that there would be consequences. Egged on by the Russians, the South Ossetians increased their provocations. Perhaps it was a deliberate trap. If so, Saakashvili fell right into it. His soldiers had no hope of beating the Russians in a fight. Maybe he assumed that the West would bail him out: an epic miscalculation. Many Georgians now feel that the West betrayed them. In due course they will no doubt turn on Saakashvili himself.

Most Russians believe their government's action in Georgia was entirely justified. They are hugely satisfied that they are now dictating the rules of the game, after endless lectures about their human rights record by the people who brought the world Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo, after years of having their interests systematically ignored by a triumphalist West. They are now back again, teaching an irritating neighbour a sharp lesson, dictating their will in the energy market, and cocking a snook at Nato and the European Union. It is not a pretty sight, but it is understandable.

The Americans and their allies have been made to look weak and foolish. They do not have the power to force South Ossetia and Abkhazia back into Georgia, any more than the Russians had the power to force Kosovo back into Serbia. Their offer of Nato membership to Ukraine and Georgia looks perilously like bluff.

Nato has the means to defend the Baltic States and Poland from Russian aggression. But Georgia? But Ukraine? Most Ukrainians would like to be linked with the West. But they want to remain on good terms with Russia: that is why, according to polls, a majority oppose Nato membership. Do we propose to force it on them? [LEvko's italics]

We have given small countries meaningless guarantees before. After their shameful betrayal of Czechoslovakia in 1938, Britain and France declared war on Hitler in September 1939 to honour their guarantee to Poland. Everyone else, including America, fought only after he had moved against them. But the guarantee did not save Poland, which ended the war under Soviet domination."


Unknown said...

Thanks for the very interesting article LEvko.

You are absolutely correct that the US and their allies have been made to look weak and foolish...but to be honest...I never believed the West would support Georgia...or for that fact...Ukraine.

But...I think they should. The West gave Stalin Eastern Europe after WWII and these countries still have not recovered from the mafia type govt instituted by the Soviets...or their corruption. We owe it to these countries to allow them to move forwards towards democracy.

I have struggled with Saakashvill of Georgia...but I cannot imagine why he made such a foolish move. No matter what the provocations, it has to be pure foolishness to do what he did without the West's backing.

I do believe that Russia would have backed down if a united NATO threatened to respond. But...there is no united NATO. Most have grown fat and lazy and are more concerned about not upsetting Russia than in what is right. can thank Bush for much of that. At one time NATO members listened to the leadership of the US. Thanks to Bush, they often ignore us...and our military is tied up in Iraq and what can we do...effectively?

Anonymous said...

suckassvili president and dictator of the new gorji state of south Caucasus, was ordered by the slippery dick to attack the unarmed civilians in order for to increase the popularity of McPaine. The news media should pay attention to sudden increase of the MacPaine popularity after the Georgian killing of the Abkhazians and Osetians. I guess the republican neo –con-artists have a few more trick in their sleeves.

Vigilante said...

I am not a Georgian, but American. In my view, the partition and/or annexation of Abkhazia and South Ossetia to Russia could & should have been negotiated, would there have been diplomats sensitive to the desires of the peoples involved. A lot of suffering bloodshed destruction and other (now) unending unpleasantness might have been avoided. Unfortunately Saakashvili, Bush and McCain are still talking from their pre-August 9th mentality.

Unknown said...

Egged on by the Russians, the South Ossetians increased their provocations. Perhaps it was a deliberate trap.—Sir Rodric Braithewaite

My comment: This formulation about the invasion of Georgia, except for the word "Perhaps" (which is unfortunately characteristic of much I read or hear in American media), puts the emphasis where it belongs.

It is reprehensible to speak, as many other commentators do, of the events in South Ossetia early in August without noting Russian issuing of passports and other support to disaffected Georgian citizens of the region for more than fifteen years, much of this support administered by so-called Russian “peacekeepers,” and all of it a series of chess moves in a calculated Russian effort to destabilize a democratic neighbor.

It is reprehensible to ignore the Russians' "egging on" or to ignore the deliberate provocations of their South Ossetian agents. Georgia has been trying for more than fifteen years to deal with situations on its northern border that Russia has consistently inflamed and periodically ignited. Georgian actions in early August came in reaction to rocket and other attacks launched from within its borders by Russian-sponsored South Ossetian separatists. To state or imply that this reaction was unwise or reckless is merely to adopt the terms of Russian propaganda.

The Russians did not, as some say, “respond” to Georgia’s measures; Russia stimulated them and planned to crush them, in the process dealing Georgian democracy a death blow. Interdiction of vital commercial transportation is that death blow, the primary military objective of Russian forces north of Tbilisi, forces that in order to secure this objective have destroyed Georgian military capacity. Maintenance of the interdiction will slowly cause Georgian democracy to wither and die unless NATO, or parts of NATO, take military action on the ground to defend it.

Russia is re-emerging as the primary threat to democracy, a return to its status under Soviet rule. With the end of democracy in Georgia, NATO will disintegrate if it does not harden its defenses in other democracies surrounding the Russian aggressor.

Anonymous said...

Everything was OK - until the rooshans came.

"passports for territory"

rooshans love misery - theirs and yours.

Major military clashes have ended in Georgia, but for villagers living in or near the country's breakaway territories, a new kind of nightmare is just beginning.

The United Nations refugee agency on August 29 said thousands of people living near the administrative border dividing Georgia and its breakaway region of South Ossetia are fleeing towns and villages amid reports of incursions by Ossetian militias.

One such town is Akhalgori, a quiet town located on the Ksani River within South Ossetia, where Ossetians and Georgians had cohabitated peacefully for decades.

The town -- known as "Leningori" during the Soviet era, when it was part of the former South Ossetian Autonomous District -- has remained under Georgian control since South Ossetia's de facto partition in the early 1990s.

Its residents, an integrated blend of Ossetians and Georgians, have traditionally lived in peace. In the past, no one in Akhalgori even thought to distinguish between Georgians and Ossetians.

'Bombs Poured Down'

Now, suddenly, the picture is radically different. While Akhalgori remained largely untouched during the worst of the fighting between Russian and Georgian troops in early August, residents recall the terror of the nearby fighting.