Day: August 22, 2008

US: Russia not in compliance with ceasefire pact

Via BBC:

Following a statement by the Russian defence ministry that the withdrawal was complete, US President George W Bush and his French counterpart, Nicolas Sarkozy, expressed their dissatisfaction.

They agreed in a telephone call that “Russia is not in compliance” with the ceasefire pact and it should comply immediately, US officials said.

 “[The Russians] have without a doubt failed to live up to their obligations. Establishing checkpoints, buffer zones are definitely not part of the agreement,” the White House said

Russia plans to maintain grip on Poti, Senaki []

Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 22 Aug.’08 / 18:45

A Russian army map outlining the Russian troops’ planned deployment in Georgia shows they have no intention to give up control over Senaki and the port town of Poti.

In Moscow, the deputy chief of general staff of the Russian armed forces, Anatoly Nogovitsin, showed a map detailing what he said would be “zone of responsibility” of the Russian “peacekeepers.”

This includes checkpoints at Nabada, just outside Poti, and in Senaki, a town less than 40 kilometers away from Poti.

Georgia’s key military base and strategic airfield are located in Senaki.

“Airfield in Senaki is also part of the zone of responsibility of the Russian peacekeepers,” Nogovitsin said.

On the eastern front, in the South Ossetian conflict zone the Russian troops’ “zone of responsibility” includes southern areas from the South Ossetian administrative border. The zone even includes some portions of the Georgia’s major east-west highway – in particular at the village of Shavshvebi and Agara. The town of Gori itself is not part of the zone.

“Our forces will be pulled back to these zones of responsibility today,” Nogovitsin said.

The Russian forces started removing their checkpoints and roadblocks from some of the locations deep inside the Georgian territories, including from Gori and Igoeti. But there was no sign of the Russian troops’ withdrawal from the entrance of Poti.

“We will not and the world will not let the Russian forces to increase their zone activity deep inside the Georgian territory,” Davit Kezerashvili, the Georgian defense minister, said on August 22.

It also emerged on August 22, that Russia plans to keep 2,142 soldiers in Abkhazia as part of its peacekeeping forces.

Nogovitsin said that 109 armored personnel carriers (APC) – BTR-80s and BTR-70s; fourteen APCs of BTR-R145 type and four armored patrol vehicles – BRDM, as well as 34 mortar launchers will also remain in Abkhazia. The military unit in Abkhazia, he said, would also be supported by two Mi-24 combat helicopters and two Mi-8 helicopters.

Russian troops leave Gori, but problems remain

RFE/RL has details of Russian troop movements in Georgia today. While no troops remain in Gori, some have left for South Ossetia, while others have been seen moving in the direction of Igoeti. The situation still looks problematic. Excerpt:

“What we see is not very encouraging,” Liklikadze said. “From the direction of Gori, three armored vehicles are moving in our direction, plus two trucks loaded with personnel. And they passed us and went in the direction of Igoeti. I asked one of the [Russian] officers at the checkpoint who was wearing a peacekeeping armband, and he said they don’t intend to stay for long. When I asked him to be more concrete, he said, ‘We are waiting for orders. I can’t tell you anything. My boss is General Borisov.”

RFE/RL correspondent Goga Aptsiauri gave this account of how Russian General Vyacheslav Borisov, commander of Russian forces in the Gori region, interprets the terms of withdrawal.

“Yesterday [August 21], General Borisov had a fairly heated discussion with [Gori regional Governor Vladimer] Vardzelashvili about the so-called buffer zone,” Aptsiauri reports. “Borisov had all kinds of maps out and was referring to the 1992 [cease-fire] agreement, which stipulates that the conflict zone included quite a lot of villages north of Gori in Gori district — including two villages that are located along the main east-west highway, Shavshvebi and Agara. So if we go with that agreement, it would mean that the so-called peacekeepers who would replace the regular Russian troops will have the right to control the main highway, and even establish checkpoints.”

Goga Aptsiauri has been reporting from Gori ever since it was seized, and has a blog.

The NATO Membership Dilemma

A correspondent has forwarded the following text:

Sent: 8/19/2008 10:39:14 A.M. Eastern Daylight Time
Subj: The NATO Membership Dilemma

A bleak picture emerges. What Stratfor could say but doesn’t, is that there are member states of NATO that are so weak and so exposed that they could in essence be conquered in a day, and that their conquest would also graphically demonstrate that NATO has gone defunct. Guerrilla resistance in such countries might continue a little longer, but there would probably be no place that NATO response forces could land, by air or by sea. Civil war cavalry guy Nathan Forrest said that in order to win, you’ve got to show up the “firstest with the mostest”. If you show up firstest with the mostest and take the venue in question (the prize, the bone of contention) over totally, the response forces of the second guy (NATO) won’t bother showing up to the party at all. Eastern Europe needs to do the “lift itself up by the hair” trick as demonstrated by Baron von Munchhausen, in terms of substantially improving its defense capability as quickly as is feasible. Put a different way, NATO needs to be buttressed and empowered in vulnerable locations at the behest of Eastern Europe for Eastern Europe. Only by rendering itself capable of being protected can Eastern Europe, with the help of NATO, put NATO into a position for helping Eastern Europe! For all I care, parts of Western Europe, which apparently don’t really care or are even at cross ends to our aspirations, should be given the opportunity to depart the alliance, if proven to be a liability and a dead weight. CEE needs to be urged by all good men and women, particularly in the diaspora, to lift itself up by the hair, or God (NATO) won’t be able to help those who didn’t bother to help themselves. Sorry about the mixing of metaphors.



NATO Membership Dilemma

August 18, 2008
NATO foreign ministers will meet Aug. 19 to discuss responses to the Russian invasion of Georgia. The United States is pressing for immediate action — although what that really means is movement toward admitting Georgia to NATO, rather than actual action. The Germans have expressed support for Georgia’s membership in the alliance, but the French and Italians appear to be hesitating, not wanting to trigger the confrontation with the Russians that would likely result from such a move. The newer members of NATO, those who formally belonged to the Warsaw Pact, tend to want aggressive movement to include Georgia and Ukraine in NATO. They want to see NATO assert itself, in order to be assured that the alliance will do that.

The problem is not that NATO is incapable of moving rapidly to include Ukraine and Georgia; it is a matter of what it means to be part of NATO. NATO was originally an anti-Soviet military alliance. It consisted of well-armed and well-trained armies — British, West German, Dutch and others — all backed by massive U.S. power and nuclear weapons. An attack on Europe would have meant an attack on NATO, and the Soviets never tried that. Had they done so, they would have faced a very dangerous military situation. The risks were much higher than the gains.

Most of today’s NATO members have minimal military forces that are poorly armed and trained. As important, the geography has shifted. From a compact western European alliance, NATO has become a sprawling entity, ranging from an exposed and barely defended flank in the Baltics to — if they were included — totally undefended Ukraine and Georgia. The forces necessary to defend those two countries would take years and hundreds of billions of dollars to recruit, arm and train. NATO was once able to defend Europe in the event of war. At this point, and for a very long time, the best NATO could do is to make a gesture of defense, particularly in the case of the vast Ukraine.
It is very doubtful that Western Europe has the will to develop a force capable of defending Georgia and Ukraine. Eastern Europe might have the will but not the resources, from manpower to technology. Thus, membership in NATO for Ukraine and Georgia would be a gesture without content. We are reminded of French and British guarantees to Poland in 1939. The French and British knew they could not protect Poland. The Germans knew it. Even the Poles knew it. The hope was that Germany, fearing a war with Britain and France, would not risk attacking Poland. But the Germans knew they could defeat Poland and, more to the point, were pretty confident that the British and French were all talk, and that a declaration of war wouldn’t mean all that much.

The NATO principle is that an attack on one would be an attack on all. The assumption is that the Russians wouldn’t risk a general war in Europe to threaten Georgia or the Ukraine. Alternatively, however, the Russians might view the threat of a general war as minimal, since the rest of Europe would not attack Russia from the West to defend Georgia. In other words, the Russians’ hesitation to attack Georgia would depend on their estimate of the likelihood of an attack on Russia by the Germans and Poles in response.
It is a risk Moscow might take. First, the Russians know the German and Polish military capacity — and the limits of available American power. Second, the failure to defend a member would destroy NATO’s credibility and shred the alliance. Most of the foreign ministers meeting on Tuesday are fully aware that extending NATO membership to Ukraine and Georgia not only would be merely a gesture, but also could set up a greater calamity for the alliance. The United States knows this as well, but is making the most aggressive gestures it can, knowing that NATO works by consensus and that a single dissent can block the move. Washington is sure that dissent will come from somewhere. In the meantime, it is making the most bellicose gestures possible, short of actually doing something.

The Boomerang

Among a varied crop of recent articles in Yezhednevny Zhurnal, defence analyst Alexander Golts reflects that Russia’s “crushing reply” to Georgia is returning to it like a boomerang in the form of international condemnation, and makes the awkward-to-challenge point that a victory that is purely military is not really a victory at all. Commenting on the split between Ukraine’s President Yuschchenko and Prime Minister Yulia Timoshenko over the events in South Ossetia, Inna Bulkina notes that in her foreign policy outlook, Timoshenko is aligning herself with the very countries which have been most passive about the Russian invasion and its consequences, and which would be least inclined to help Ukraine in a crisis. Meanwhile, in a review of US press reaction to the Georgia conflict, Masha Lipman does her best to convince her readers that the recent columns by correspondents like Michael Dobbs and Charles King, whose line is essentially that the trouble in Georgia is “not all Russia’s fault”, are only harbingers of things to come.

Investors quitting Russia

According to the BBC,

Russia has seen foreign reserves decline, a sign that the market is more nervous about investing in the region since the recent conflict in Georgia.

Central Bank figures show reserves were sharply down in the week ending 15 August, marking a fall of $16.4bn (£8.8bn) from $597.5bn a week earlier.

The FT says that

Investors pulled their money out of Russia in the wake of the Georgia conflict at the fastest rate since the 1998 rouble crisis, new figures showed on Thursday.

Celebrating aggression

Throughout the Georgian crisis, the Russian government’s disinformation campaign has been so inefficient that it hasn’t even managed to spread much disinformation. With few exceptions, the vast majority pf the international media have accepted the precise, credible and often deeply disturbing daily reports and updates by Georgia’s official sources, including the country’s multi-lingual President Saakashvili. Perhaps the saddest and most pathetic stage of Russia’s attempt to distort the facts of its invasion of a sovereign state came yesterday, with the staging of a classical orchestral concert in the South Ossetian capital, Tskhinvali, to celebrate the Russian “victory” in Georgia.

Even as it becomes increasingly clear that most of the destruction and loss of life in Tskhinvali on August 8 was caused, not by Georgian forces, but by Russian aerial attacks, the musical event, with its sombre programme of Shostakovich’s “Leningrad” Symphony and Tchaikovsky’s “Pathetique”, was intended among other things to mourn a massacre of innocents – not Georgian innocents, it was stressed by officials, but South Ossetian ones.The figures of dead reported by Russia were initially put at over 2,000. Yet most recent estimates put the number at below 100, and some even below 50. While any loss of life at all is tragic and deplorable, the exaggeration that is being practiced by Moscow and the South Ossetian authorities is really an insult to those who did die or were injured.

That the principal conductor of one of Britain’s most renowned symphony orchestras should have lent his name and talents to this celebration of Russia’s aggression is also regrettable. The Telegraph, whose  correspondent was present at the concert, probably best sums up the atmosphere:

Russian soldiers perched on the top of armoured personnel carriers, straining for a better view, as Orthodox priests, Jewish rabbis and even an imam passed through the audience granting benedictions to a self-proclaimed nation united in victory.

As the strains of Shostakovich filled the air, fresh smoke and sheets of flame from burning Georgian villages in South Ossetia rose from the hills – the latest sign that while the war may be over, the plight of civilians is not.

Yet Russian officers refused to acknowledge what was going on before their eyes. “What fire?”, one snapped before striding off.