Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
August 08, 2008

Saakashvili Wants War - He Will Get It

Despite yesterday's announced ceasefire, the government of Georgia today launched an all out military attack on the breakaway region South Ossetia in northern Georgia.

There are multiple reasons for this conflict. South Ossetia declared itself independent in the early 1990s. Ossetians are a distinct ethnic group with some 60,000 living in South Ossetia and some 500,000 living in North Ossetia which is a part of Russia. Most people in South Ossetia have a Russian passport and there are UN mandated Russian peacekeepers there.

In the bigger picture Georgia is supported by 'the west' as part of an energy transport corridor from the Caspian to the Black Sea.

In 2003 the U.S. engineered Rose revolution brought the U.S. trained lawyer Mikheil Saakashvili to the top of Georgia. He since ruled with a dubious civil rights record. When opposition demonstrations in November 2007 became too big he imposed a state of emergency and suppressed the media.

Why Saakashvili decided to escalate this conflict right now is a bit mysterious. He may hope that the Olympics will distract from the conflict. He seems to have some 'western' support for this escalation:

At the request of Russia, the U.N. Security Council held an emergency session in New York but failed to reach consensus early Friday on a Russian-drafted statement.

The council concluded it was at a stalemate after the U.S., Britain and some other members backed the Georgians in rejecting a phrase in the three-sentence draft statement that would have required both sides "to renounce the use of force," council diplomats said.

For internal reasons as much as on foreign policy ground Russia will not allow Saakashvili to take over South Ossetia. It will either support the Ossetians with weapons which may lead to a prolonged guerrilla war, or it may even invade on its own.

Saakashvili already claims Russian intervention in form of air assaults and uses this as a pretext for mobilization of reserves. I'd take that with some grains of salt as it sounds like coming from the Gleiwitz radio station. If three Russian planes really bombed Georgia, they would have left damage. So far none was shown.

Saakashvili may hope for physical help from 'the west', but neither NATO nor the EU has any appetite to support his escapades.

What has led him to this miscalculation?

Posted by b on August 8, 2008 at 12:00 UTC | Permalink


According to the videos on the BBC website, they're all having good fun. Certainly looks like the 2008 Summer War, unless they calm down. But I agree, b, that the evidence of all-out Russian military intervention is mainly in the Georgian claims, as I write. at least there is video of what are said to be Russian tanks on the move, that part I can believe, but where are they?

Posted by: Alex | Aug 8 2008 13:48 utc | 1

what are said to be Russian tanks on the move, that part I can believe, but where are they?

A heavy armoured brigade (150 tanks and personnel carriers) is on its way through the Roki tunnel which connects north and south Ossetia. More will follow.

Medvedev vows punishment for killers of Russians in S.Ossetia

President Dmitry Medvedev said on Friday that Russia will punish those guilty of killing Russian nationals in South Ossetia, where Georgia has been waging an offensive to regain control of the breakaway region.

Speaking at an emergency Russian Security Council session focused on the violence, Medvedev said: "As president, I am obliged to protect the lives of our citizens wherever they may be. We will not let those guilty of killing our nationals evade punishment."

Medvedev said civilians are being killed in South Ossetia, most of whom have Russian citizenship. "Georgian troops in fact staged an act of aggression against Russian peacekeepers and civilians in South Ossetia last night."

Saakashvili tickles the bear, the bear gets angry, ...

Posted by: b | Aug 8 2008 14:28 utc | 2

inner city press blogged that emergency u.n. security council session here and here

The sticking point, diplomats told Inner City Press, was the Russian draft's call for "the parties... to renounce the use of force." Georgia has resisted signing such a commitment, and in its behalf, the U.S., France and UK objected to the draft. Afterwards, in response to questions from Inner City Press, Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said he had even offered a compromise phrase, to "stop hostilities and the use of force," but that it too had been rejected.

When French Deputy Permanent Representative Jean-Pierre Lacroix took questions, Inner City Press asked why he had objected to the phrase. He answered circularly about "commonity" in wanting "hostilities to end," and later conceded, or slipped up, that of course there should also be a cessation of the use of force.

Georgia's Ambassador Irakli Alasania made it clear that commitments to renounce the use of force would only be made as part of a negotiation. That is to say, why should Georgia give up the right to try to re-take its breakaway regions, including Abkhazia, without them agreeing to remain part of Georgia? Round and round it goes, all now in the wake of Kosovo's unilateral declaration of independence, recognized by, among others, the U.S., France and the UK.

Posted by: b real | Aug 8 2008 14:56 utc | 3

@b real - thanks

It is the same game the 'west' played when Israel attacked Lebanon in 2006.

The 'west' did not to call for peace because Israel wanted to win. But they also did not really want to help, i.e. commit forces. Israel lost that one.

The same is happening now. On behalf of some dubious client the 'west' prevents peace. But they will not invest the issue further. A month later they will have to agree to peace to rescue their client.


Posted by: b | Aug 8 2008 15:22 utc | 4

b real He answered circularly about "commonity" in wanting "hostilities to end,

what does commonity mean? is it a typo for community? or does it imply something about common understanding?

Posted by: annie | Aug 8 2008 15:38 utc | 5

annie - i would think "commonality", though (1) it could be a typo on the part of the lee (the blogger), which are quite common given that he is reporting in real time on many of his posts, or (2) the quotes could emphasize & attribute the neologism to lacroix, of which perhaps there is a translation or pronounciation issue

Posted by: b real | Aug 8 2008 15:48 utc | 6

i don't know if this is OT, but the new middle east map allows for the proposed state of 'new kurdistan' to border georgia for a small segment on the southern border. probably irrelevant.

Posted by: annie | Aug 8 2008 15:56 utc | 7

thanks b real

Posted by: annie | Aug 8 2008 15:57 utc | 8

Doubt that Georgia will be getting much Russian gas to keep them warm this winter then.

Posted by: dan | Aug 8 2008 16:17 utc | 9

annie @ 7. That map is old. Represents Kurdish aspirations (now dead), Neocon and Israeli dreams.

Posted by: Alex | Aug 8 2008 16:23 utc | 10

Someone on reddit posted this; it might be something to do with keeping Russia occupied while the strikes on Iran get underway.
raising the stakes?

Is it true? No idea.

Posted by: shanks | Aug 8 2008 17:03 utc | 11

shanks improved link

Posted by: annie | Aug 8 2008 17:32 utc | 12

Why is b so pro-Russia?

Posted by: Frank K. | Aug 8 2008 17:34 utc | 13

@shanks - first the corrected link. A ruse for an attack on Iran? I don't buy it.

Galrahn has an argument against this. Most of the current carrier movements are the usual rotations. If an attack comes it will be August 30, i.e. after the Olympics and with a dark sky (no moon) or 28 days later. ISIS just published a strong argument against such an attack - I would not stop any currently civilian Iranian program but would guarantee it change to go for the bomb.

Russia is big enough to handle several conflicts.

Back to South Ossetia.

Some 1,500 dead so far and a lot of those are Russians. That means nationalist pressure in Moscow to hit back hard. Pictures from South Ossetia's capital show lots of damage.

Saakashvili mobilizes all forces and reserves and calls back 1,000 troops from Iraq. He expects this to go for long it seems. It would take weeks for the troops from Iraq to arrive.

In the last few month Georgia got lots of weapons from the Ukraine.

NATO trained with Georgian some troops in the last months too.

Saakashvili seems to believe all of that is enough to withstand Russia. It certainly is not. Georgia's army has some 28,000 people in total. It is a joke against full Russian power.

Note that Abkhazia, the western part of Georgia is also an autonomous region with Russian support. It has a support pact with South Ossetia.

NATO will definitely not send troops for help and soon Russia will rule the skies above Georgia making reinforcements difficult.

For some weeks Georgia had prepared for this and had moved troops.

My impression is that the known hot head Saakashvili wants to go full out and hoped for Russia to cave and/or material 'western' backing. That will not come.

The Georgian new website I linked above is now dead.

Posted by: b | Aug 8 2008 17:39 utc | 14

@Frank #13:

Why is b so pro-Russia?

I believe that b is actually what could be termed 'pro-balance' - a one-legged table is not much use to anyone, if you follow.

Posted by: Dr. Wellington Yueh | Aug 8 2008 17:44 utc | 15

@Frank K. - in this case I am more anti-Saakashvili.

He started this completely unnecessary war that will kill lots of people. (Wait for the 'western' press taking up Saakashvili's claim that Russia started this - total nonsense.)

In general, as the doctor says, I am for balance in world policies. Just imagine another Bush without some international counterbalance and you will know why.

Posted by: b | Aug 8 2008 17:54 utc | 16

The damning paragraph quoted by b is no longer at yahoos site, instead following the link we find this:

Georgia reports new air attacks at military bases - Yahoo! News

Seeking to prevent an all-out war, diplomats issued a flurry of statements calling on both sides to halt the fighting. The U.N. Security Council held two tense emergency sessions 12 hours apart with both sides using the forum to launch accusations. As the meeting recessed, officials promised a third council session Saturday.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice urged Russia to halt aircraft and missile attacks and withdraw combat forces from Georgian territory. Rice said in a statement the United States wants Russia to respect Georgian sovereignty and agree to international mediation.

The old article is still accesible through the google cache though.

Posted by: a swedish kind of death | Aug 9 2008 13:01 utc | 17

@askod - interesting how that happens - here is another link to the Reuters piece:

At the request of Russia, the U.N. Security Council held an emergency session in New York but failed to reach consensus early Friday on a Russian-drafted statement.

The council concluded it was at a stalemate after the US, Britain and some other members backed the Georgians in rejecting a phrase in the three-sentence draft statement that would have required both sides "to renounce the use of force," council diplomats said.

Posted by: b | Aug 10 2008 9:09 utc | 18

i can no longer connect to the first 'launched ' link either.

Posted by: annie | Aug 10 2008 10:52 utc | 19

@annie - 19 - RIA NOVOSTI is back (but still slow) - RIA Novosti hit by cyber-attacks as conflict with Georgia rages

MOSCOW, August 10 (RIA Novosti) - RIA Novosti news agency's website was disabled for several hours on Sunday by a series of hacker attacks, as the conflict between Russia and Georgia over breakaway South Ossetia continued for a third day.

Websites in both Russia and Georgia have been hit by cyber attacks since Georgia launched a major ground and air offensive to seize control of South Ossetia on Friday. Russia responded by sending in tanks and hundreds of troops.

"The DNS-servers and the site itself have been coming under severe attack," said Maxim Kuznetsov, head of the RIA Novosti IT department.

RIA Novosti's servers are now functioning as normal.

Posted by: b | Aug 11 2008 6:40 utc | 20

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