In the Washington Post, Ronald D. Asmus and Richard Holbrooke look at the present situation between Russia and the West. “The West, and especially the United States, could have prevented this war. We have arrived at a watershed moment in the West’s post-Cold War relations with Russia.” Excerpt:
What can we do? First, Georgia deserves our solidarity and support. (Georgia has supported us; its more than 2,000 troops are the third-largest contingent in Iraq — understandably those troops are being recalled.) We must get the fighting stopped and preserve Georgia’s territorial integrity within its current international border. As soon as hostilities cease, there should be a major, coordinated transatlantic effort to help Tbilisi rebuild and recover.
Second, we should not pretend that Russia is a neutral peacekeeper in conflicts on its borders. Russia is part of the problem, not the solution. For too long, Moscow has used existing international mandates to pursue neo-imperial policies. We must disavow these mandates and insist on truly neutral international forces, under the United Nations, to monitor a future cease-fire and to mediate.
Third, we need to counter Russian pressure on its neighbors, especially Ukraine — most likely the next target in Moscow’s efforts to create a new sphere of hegemony. The United States and the European Union must be clear that Ukraine and Georgia will not be condemned to some kind of gray zone.
Finally, the United States and the European Union must make clear that this kind of aggression will affect our relations and Russia’s standing in the West. While Western military intervention in Georgia is out of the question — and no one wants a 21st-century version of the Cold War — Moscow’s actions cannot be ignored. There is a vast array of political, economic and other areas in which Russia’s role and standing will have to be reexamined. Moscow must also be put on notice that its own prestige project — the Sochi Olympics — will be affected by its behavior.
In a cynical move, Russia has attached Muslim Chechen battalions under its control to its forces in Georgia – perhaps believing that they will be effective in fighting the soldiers of a Christian country.
Radio Ekho Moskvy, referring to a representative of the Russian Ministry of Defence reports that in the structure of armed forces attached to the contingent of Russian peacemakers in Georgia’s troubled areas there are also two companies of the special-task battalions Zapad (West) and Vostok (East), which are constantly deployed in Russia’s Chechen Republic. Radio notes that news agency ITAR-TASS has confirmed this report. Zapad and Vostok battalions are commanded by the Main Intelligence Directorate (abbreviation: GRU) of the Russian General Staff.
The Vostok and Zapad battalions, which are part of the 42nd Motorized Rifle Division that is permanently deployed in Chechnya, have been in charge of operations in the eastern and western parts of the republic, respectively. In June, Leutenant-General Vladimir Shamanov, head of the Russian Armed Forces combat training directorate said the battalions “perform tasks not only in the framework of the Joint Group of Forces in the North Caucasus, but also peacekeeping tasks in South Ossetia and Abkhazia.”
A blog has been set up with the aim of helping to stop Russia’s military aggression. There are frequent updates on the developing situation on the ground and on the diplomatic front, with statements from Georgian and world leaders, and also many comments from Georgian people. The blog lists links to Georgian government institutions, to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and to Georgian NGOs.
Russia and Georgia at War
Georgia has been openly invaded by Russian military forces.
Cities and villages throughout Georgia are being bombed. Numerous of civilians are being killed, thousands of people are homeless, material damage to the country’s infrastructure is devastating.
Georgian citizens are against war. We are being punished for our aspiration to become part of the democratic world. Today our choice to become part of the West is threatened. Russian aggression is a challenge to the international community as well.
We, the civil society organizations of Georgia call for:
- The World democratic community to take quick and effective measures to stop violence in Georgia;
- Armed forces of the Russian Federation to stop their intervention immediately and leave the territory of Georgia.
Every minute is critical for the lives of innocent civilians in Georgia!!!
1. The Union “21 Century”
2. National Center of Protection from Violence
3. Women Club “Peoni”
4. Multinational Georgia
5. Article 42 of the Constitution
6. Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association
7. Constitutional Rights Protection Centre
8. Open Society Georgia Foundation
9. Caucasus Institute for Peace, Democracy and Development
10. The Youth Network Against Intolerance and Discrimination
11. Civil Integration Foundation
12. Civil Participation Centre
13. Javakheti Democratic Development Centre
14. Civil Council
15. International Center on Conflicts and Negotiations
The statement is open for signing….
Civil Georgia reports that the city of Gori has been taken by Russian troops.
A few minutes ago Sky News reported a Georgian security official as saying that Georgian forces were preparing to fortify the capital, Tbilisi.
Georgia’s President Mikheil Saakashvili has published an article in the Wall Street Journal today. From the article’s conclusion:
What is at stake in this war?
Most obviously, the future of my country is at stake. The people of Georgia have spoken with a loud and clear voice: They see their future in Europe. Georgia is an ancient European nation, tied to Europe by culture, civilization and values. In January, three in four Georgians voted in a referendum to support membership in NATO. These aims are not negotiable; now, we are paying the price for our democratic ambitions.
Second, Russia’s future is at stake. Can a Russia that wages aggressive war on its neighbors be a partner for Europe? It is clear that Russia’s current leadership is bent on restoring a neocolonial form of control over the entire space once governed by Moscow.
If Georgia falls, this will also mean the fall of the West in the entire former Soviet Union and beyond. Leaders in neighboring states — whether in Ukraine, in other Caucasian states or in Central Asia — will have to consider whether the price of freedom and independence is indeed too high.