Posts Tagged 'Georgia'

East-West: The Origins of a Crisis

Nikolas Gvosdev | Taki’s Magazine | September 04, 2008

A great deal of ink has been spilled over the last month about the proximate causes of the fighting in the Caucasus. Abkhaz, Georgians, Ossetians and Russians have all presented conflicting accounts of who fired first—with timelines that stretch back to the 18th century. Meanwhile, the debate in the West has centered over whether the efforts to enlarge NATO to Russia’s doorstep were foolhardy and provocative, or timely and essential for the preservation of the Euro-Atlantic community.

But even if the Georgian crisis had not occurred, something was bound to happen. Two separate—and unrelated—events that occurred in 2003 set in motion a series of developments that, because they were left unaddressed, help to explain why Russia decided to draw a line in the sand and why NATO’s response has been relatively anemic. Even now, the Western alliance seems unable and unwilling to undertake the frank conversation needed—to define exactly what NATO is supposed to be doing; and in so doing is setting itself up for further failures.

From the Russian side, the road to Georgia began in earnest on October 26, 2003. That was the day Russian president Vladimir Putin was supposed to fly to the ex-Soviet republic of Moldova to sign an agreement designed to end the “frozen conflict” between the central government in Chisinau and the breakaway region of Transdnistria. The memorandum, which had been drafted by Putin’s special envoy Dmitry Kozak, provided for the preservation of Moldova’s territorial integrity but would give the separatist region a great deal of autonomy, by transforming the country into a federation. In practical terms, it meant that the pro-Western aspirations of the central government would now be balanced by the pro-Russia bent of the Transdnistrians. The opening point of the so-called “Kozak memorandum” was that the new federal state would be both neutral and demilitarized. Or, to put it another way, Moldova would be “lost” to the West.

At midnight, Moldovan president Vladimir Voronin contacted Putin to tell him that the deal was off. According to Russian political commentator Alexey Pushkov wrote in The National Interest last year:

As the story goes in Moscow, Voronin came under strong pressure from Javier Solana, the EU foreign-policy commissar, not to sign the deal. According to other sources, Voronin allegedly also had a phone conversation with Colin Powell, then the U.S. secretary of state. The message was clear: The West would not be happy if Voronin signed the Kozak memorandum. Later, U.S. diplomats denied that there had ever been a conversation between Voronin and Powell. Nonetheless, the U.S. ambassador in Moscow, Alexander Vershbow, did confirm to me that Washington had opposed Voronin’s signing the document.

U.S. and European officials vigorously dispute this account, but this is the prevailing view that was believed not only by the Kremlin, but in other capitals of the post-Soviet space. Both Moscow and a number of Western-oriented governments, especially in Ukraine and Georgia, concluded that NATO rejected the idea that there should be a neutral “buffer” zone between Russian and Western interests. Moreover, both the Russians—as well as their neighbors—assumed that the West was playing for keeps—and this was going to be a zero-sum game. This was certainly their conclusion from the decision to go ahead with recognizing an independent Kosovo in 2008.

Continue reading ‘East-West: The Origins of a Crisis’

Who is Wrecking America?

PAUL CRAIG ROBERTS | Counterpunch | Saturday, Sept 6, 2008

Does the liberal-left have a clue? I sometimes think not.

In his book, “What’s the Matter With Kansas?,” Thomas Frank made the excellent point that the Karl Rove Republicans take advantage of ordinary’s people’s frustrations and resentments to lead them into voting against their best interest.

Frank’s new book, “The Wrecking Crew: How Conservatives Rule,” lacks the insight that distinguished his previous book. Why does Frank think that conservatives or liberals rule?

Neither rule. America is ruled by organized interest groups with money to elect candidates who serve their interests. Frank’s book does not even mention the Israel Lobby, which bleeds Americans for the sake of Israeli territorial expansion. Check the index. Israel is not there.

Continue reading ‘Who is Wrecking America?’

Russia Never Wanted a War

By MIKHAIL GORBACHEV | NYT | Published: August 19, 2008

THE acute phase of the crisis provoked by the Georgian forces’ assault on Tskhinvali, the capital of South Ossetia, is now behind us. But how can one erase from memory the horrifying scenes of the nighttime rocket attack on a peaceful town, the razing of entire city blocks, the deaths of people taking cover in basements, the destruction of ancient monuments and ancestral graves?

Russia did not want this crisis. The Russian leadership is in a strong enough position domestically; it did not need a little victorious war. Russia was dragged into the fray by the recklessness of the Georgian president, Mikheil Saakashvili. He would not have dared to attack without outside support. Once he did, Russia could not afford inaction.

The decision by the Russian president, Dmitri Medvedev, to now cease hostilities was the right move by a responsible leader. The Russian president acted calmly, confidently and firmly. Anyone who expected confusion in Moscow was disappointed.

The planners of this campaign clearly wanted to make sure that, whatever the outcome, Russia would be blamed for worsening the situation. The West then mounted a propaganda attack against Russia, with the American news media leading the way.

The news coverage has been far from fair and balanced, especially during the first days of the crisis. Tskhinvali was in smoking ruins and thousands of people were fleeing — before any Russian troops arrived. Yet Russia was already being accused of aggression; news reports were often an embarrassing recitation of the Georgian leader’s deceptive statements.

Continue reading ‘Russia Never Wanted a War’

CRISIS IN THE CAUCASUS. WHAT WERE THEY SMOKING IN THE WHITE HOUSE?

Eric Margolis | Archives | August 18, 2008

WASHINGTON DC- The Bush administration appears to have pulled off its latest military fiasco in the Caucasus. What was supposed to have been a swiftly and painless takeover of rebellious South Ossetia by America’s favourite new ally, Georgia, has turned into a disaster that left Georgia battered, Russia enraged, and NATO badly demoralized. Not bad for two days work.

Equally important, Russia’s Vladimir Putin swiftly and decisively checkmated the Bush administration’s clumsy attempt last week to expand US influence into the Caucasus, and made the Americans and their Georgian satraps look like fools.

We are not facing a return to the Cold War – yet. But the current US-Russian crisis over Georgia, a tiny nation of only 4.6 million, and its linkage to a US anti-ballistic missile system in Eastern Europe, is deeply worrying and increasingly dangerous.

Continue reading ‘CRISIS IN THE CAUCASUS. WHAT WERE THEY SMOKING IN THE WHITE HOUSE?’

Who Started Cold War II?

Patrick J. Buchanan | Taki’s Magazine | August 18, 2008

The American people should be eternally grateful to Old Europe for having spiked the Bush-McCain plan to bring Georgia into NATO.

Had Georgia been in NATO when Mikheil Saakashvili invaded South Ossetia, we would be eyeball to eyeball with Russia, facing war in the Caucasus, where Moscow’s superiority is as great as U.S. superiority in the Caribbean during the Cuban missile crisis.

If the Russia-Georgia war proves nothing else, it is the insanity of giving erratic hotheads in volatile nations the power to drag the United States into war.

Continue reading ‘Who Started Cold War II?’

Gorbachev: ‘Signs of a Cold War Are Present’

Former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev appeared on “Larry King Live” Thursday to give his read on the Georgia-Russia conflict, asserting that Georgia was definitively the first to attack, in “a barbaric assault” on Tskhinvali, and that “there was support and protection” for Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili from … elsewhere in the world.

Update: Saakashvili responded to Gorbachev on King’s show (see below).

Click here to read CNN’s rush transcript of the interview.

Part 1:

Part 2:

Saakashvili slams Gorbachev:

Georgia War a Neocon Election Ploy?

Robert Scheer | Truthdig | Aug 12, 2008

October comes early? Sen. John McCain and Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer/Irakli Gedeniedze, Pool)

October comes early? Sen. John McCain and Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer/Irakli Gedeniedze, Pool)

Is it possible that this time the October surprise was tried in August, and that the garbage issue of brave little Georgia struggling for its survival from the grasp of the Russian bear was stoked to influence the U.S. presidential election?

Before you dismiss that possibility, consider the role of one Randy Scheunemann, for four years a paid lobbyist for the Georgian government who ended his official lobbying connection only in March, months after he became Republican presidential candidate John McCain’s senior foreign policy adviser.

Previously, Scheunemann was best known as one of the neoconservatives who engineered the war in Iraq when he was a director of the Project for a New American Century. It was Scheunemann who, after working on the McCain 2000 presidential campaign, headed the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq, which championed the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

Continue reading ‘Georgia War a Neocon Election Ploy?’

War in the Caucasus: Towards a Broader Russia-US Military Confrontation?

Michel Chossudovsky | Global Research, August 10, 2008

In this image made from television, Russian military vehicles are seen moving towards the capital of South Ossetia, Tskhinvali, on Friday, Aug. 8, 2008. (AP / APTN)

In this image made from television, Russian military vehicles are seen moving towards the capital of South Ossetia, Tskhinvali, on Friday, Aug. 8, 2008. (AP / APTN)

During the night of August 7, coinciding with the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics, Georgia’s president Saakashvili ordered an all-out military attack on Tskhinvali, the capital of South Ossetia.

The aerial bombardments and ground attacks were largely directed against civilian targets including residential areas, hospitals and the university. The provincial capital Tskhinvali was destroyed. The attacks resulted in some 1500 civilian deaths, according to both Russian and Western sources. “The air and artillery bombardment left the provincial capital without water, food, electricity and gas. Horrified civilians crawled out of the basements into the streets as fighting eased, looking for supplies.” (AP, August 9, 2008). According to reports, some 34,000 people from South Ossetia have fled to Russia. (Deseret Morning News, Salt Lake City, August 10, 2008)

The importance and timing of this military operation must be carefully analyzed. It has far-reaching implications.

Georgia is an outpost of US and NATO forces, on the immediate border of the Russian Federation and within proximity of the Middle East Central Asian war theater. South Ossetia is also at the crossroads of strategic oil and gas pipeline routes.

Georgia does not act militarily without the assent of Washington. The Georgian head of State is a US proxy and Georgia is a de facto US protectorate.  

Who is behind this military agenda? What interests are being served? What is the purpose of the military operation. 

There is evidence that the attacks were carefully coordinated by the US military and NATO. 

Continue reading ‘War in the Caucasus: Towards a Broader Russia-US Military Confrontation?’

NATO, EU to Hold Crisis Talks as Russia Advances in Georgia

As Russian troops and tanks advance further into Georgian territory, officials from NATO and the EU scheduled talks over the war in the Caucasus to show they can make a difference in their own backyard.

Tbilisi wants a stronger response from the West as Russian troops move across Georgia

Tbilisi wants a stronger response from the West as Russian troops move across Georgia

 

Pleading for a hands-on approach from NATO and the European Union, Salome Samadashvili, Georgia’s ambassador to the EU, told journalists in Brussels on Monday, Aug. 11, that the organizations “need to show that there will be a political cost for this action in terms of the relationship of the Russian Federation with its Western partners,” DPA news agency reported.

 

“Either we find a way to respond to (Russia’s military action) together or we have to live with the decision that we will face a different world tomorrow,” she added.

 

Georgian forces retreated on Monday to Tbilisi from other parts of the country in order to defend the capital.

 

“The invading army of the Russian Federation has entered Georgian territory outside the conflict zones of Abkhazia and South Ossetia,” the Georgian government said in a statement. “The Georgian army is retreating to defend the capital. The government is urgently seeking international intervention to prevent the fall of Georgia and the further loss of life.”

 Russia’s Defense Ministry on Monday said Russia had no plans for its forces to advance on Georgia’s capital, Tbilisi, Interfax news agency reported.

“We do not have and have never had any plans to advance on Tbilisi,” the news agency quoted an unnamed defence ministry official as saying. “Clearly the Georgian leadership is gripped by panic.”

Continue reading ‘NATO, EU to Hold Crisis Talks as Russia Advances in Georgia’

Did the U.S. Prep Georgia for War with Russia?

Nathan Hodge | Wired | Monday, Aug 11, 2008

Georgia and Russia are careening towards war. And the U.S. isn’t exactly a detached observer in the fight. The American military has been training and equipping Georgian troops for years.

The news thus far: Georgia, which has been locked in a drone war over the separatist enclave of Abkhazia, has launched an offensive to reclaim another breakaway territory, South Ossetia. Latest reports indicate that Georgian forces are laying siege to Tskhinvali, the South Ossetian capital. And Russia, which has backed the separatists, is sending in the tanks.

So why should we care? Oh, just the prospect of a larger regional war that could drag in Russia – and involve the United States as well. Since early 2002, the U.S. government has given a healthy amount of military aid to Georgia. When I last visited South Ossetia, Georgian troops manned a checkpoint outside Tskhinvali — decked out in surplus U.S. Army uniforms and new body armor.

The first U.S. aid came under the rubric of the Georgia Train and Equip Program (ostensibly to counter alleged Al Qaeda influence in the Pankisi Gorge); then, under the Sustainment and Stability Operations Program. Georgia returned the favor, committing thousands of troops to the multi-national coalition in Iraq. Last fall, the Georgians doubled their contingent, making them the third-largest contributor to the coalition. Not bad for a nation of 4.6 million people.

Leaving aside the question of Russian interference (see below), the larger concern has been that Georgia might be tempted to use its newfound military prowess to resolve domestic conflicts by force.

As Sergei Shamba, the foreign affairs minister of Abkhazia, told me in 2006: “The Georgians are euphoric because they have been equipped, trained, that they have gained military experience in Iraq. It feeds this revanchist mood… How can South Ossetia be demilitarized, when all of Georgia is bristling with weaponry, and it’s only an hour’s ride by tank from Tbilisi to Tskhinvali?”

One of the U.S. military trainers put it to me a bit more bluntly. “We’re giving them the knife,” he said. “Will they use it?”

 

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