Russia’s invasion of Georgia

Saakashvili: IIFFMCG report a diplomatic victory for Georgia

From Civil Georgia:

“When in 1921 Russia attacked us and occupied us no international commission was set up then. When they imposed a civil war on us in 1992 and 1993 here no international commission was set up. When acts of sabotage were carried out in 2004, no international commission was set up. We achieved, first of all, setting up an international commission even on their conditions, as they composed the commission with the experts, which were acceptable for them, who had already blamed Georgia in advance. We closed eyes on it and agreed because we believed that they were Europeans and they would not lie.

They said even more truth than I could ever imagine. It is a great diplomatic victory for Georgia.

Some may say what is a conclusion – they say that Georgia did not observe everything and violated something. But it does not matter, because these are conclusions – this commission should have ascertained the facts, which would have been written in history.

Hundreds of thousands of our citizens were expelled from Abkhazia in 1992, and the European Union or more serious organizations have never said that it was ethnic cleansing. Now it is written [in the report] that there was ethnic cleansing.

We had no illusion that Europe – which is preparing for a cold winter and which needs Russian gas – would have said that ‘yes Russia carried out ethnic cleansing, it committed war crimes and Vladimir Putin is to be blamed for it’ – what would have happened in that case? Would they have arrested Putin when he had arrived in Brussels? I think that nobody had such illusion.”

Saakashvili: “Georgia has more international support”

President Saakashvili said that Georgia now had more international support than it had before the August war and cited Georgia’s strategic partnership with the United States and Georgia’s planned participation in EU’s Eastern Partnership initiative for six former Soviet states.


Truth against lies – 2

The Other Russia has published a Russian blogger’s analysis of the interview with Denis Sidristy which appeared in Krasnaya Zvezda, confirming that Russian forces were in South Ossetia before Georgia began to shell Tskhinvali. The analysis also gives detailed support to Michael J. Totten’s account of the events of August 7-8, which demonstrated that Russia began the war.

See also in this blog: Truth against lies

Putin’s 40 billion plus

Writing in the Jerusalem Post, Caroline Glick has some clear-headed insights into the nature of Russia’s unstable and venal power structure, which is now analogous to those of North Korea and Iran: Excerpt:

…as Pavel Felgenhauer noted on the Jamestown Foundation’s Eurasia Daily Monitor Web publication, Russia’s government-controlled media is engaged in Soviet-like frenzied demonization of US leaders. In one prominent example this week, the government-mouthpiece Izvestia launched an obscene broadside against US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. The newspaper referred to her as “insane,” and then crudely demeaned her as “a skinny old single lady who likes to display her underwear during talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Ivanov.”

As the West scrambles to build a strategy for contending with Russia, many writers and policy-makers have pointed out that Russia is fundamentally weak. As my former Jerusalem Post colleague Bret Stephens noted Tuesday in The Wall Street Journal, Russia’s demographic projection, like its oil and gas production, forecasts, is dim. The CIA has pointed out through demographic attrition, Russia’s population will decline more than 20 percent over the next 40 years. And due to “underinvestment, incompetence, corruption, political interference and crude profiteering,” Russia’s oil production will decline this year for the first time. Its production rates are expected to drop precipitously next year and in the coming years as well.

Cognizant of these negative trends, US and European leaders are hoping that Russia’s bleak prospects will convince its leaders to step back from the precipice of war with the West to which they are now hurtling. On Wednesday, US Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Daniel Fried warned, “Russia is going to have to come to terms with the reality that it can either integrate with the world or it can be a self-isolated bully. But it can’t have both.”

WHILE IT remains to be seen if the West will agree to isolate the Russian bully, it is certainly the case that Russia’s leaders are not blind to their country’s weaknesses. This is so because to a large degree, Russia’s dim long-term prognosis has been caused by the domestic policies of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and his cronies. And in light of this, it can be safely assumed that far from causing them to avoid confrontation with the West, their cognizance of Russia’s problems is what caused them to adopt their belligerent posture.

In December, Russian political insider Stanislav Belkovsky told the German media that during his two terms as Russia’s president, Putin amassed a fortune in excess of $40 billion, making him the wealthiest man in Europe. Putin’s wealth has been built through his ownership of vast holdings in three Russian oil and gas companies.

Were Putin invested in the long-term prosperity and strength of his country, he would have invested that money in Russia. Instead he has squirreled it away in bank accounts in Switzerland and Liechtenstein. And of course, Putin is not alone in betting his wealth against his country’s future. Like him, his cronies in the Kremlin and the FSB (Federal Security Service) have accrued their wealth through their ownership in Russian companies that Putin has nationalized. And like him, they have taken their loot out of the country.

The behavior of Russia’s rulers makes clear that they do not concern themselves with the long-term health of their country as they construct their policies. And their concentration on short-term gains makes their decision to confront the US and Europe inevitable. It is now, when Russia’s oil wealth is at its peak, that they are most powerful. And with their current power they seek to maximize their personal gains while justifying their actions in the name of Russian glory.

The Five Principles

The first two are:

1) Russia recognizes the priority of the fundamental provisions of international law, is opposed to a unipolar world order, and avoids confrontation with other states.

2) Russia will protect its citizens wherever they are, and will defend their interests in regions where there are countries friendly to Russia. These are not only states which have a common border with Russia.

Russia’s invasion welcomed in Middle East

Via the Washington Post. Excerpt:

For some in the Middle East, the images of Russian tanks rolling into Georgia in defiance of U.S. opposition have revived warm memories of the Cold War.Syrian President Bashar al-Assad flew last week to Moscow, where he endorsed Russia’s offensive in Georgia and, according to Russian officials, sought additional Russian weapon systems.

Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi’s influential son, echoed the delight expressed in much of the Arab news media. “What happened in Georgia is a good sign, one that means America is no longer the sole world power setting the rules of the game,” the younger Gaddafi was quoted as telling the Russian daily Kommersant. “There is a balance in the world now. Russia is resurging, which is good for us, for the entire Middle East.”

In Turkey, an American and European ally that obtains more than two-thirds of its natural gas from Russia, the reaction was more complex. Turks watched as the United States, NATO and a divided European Union hesitated in the face of Russian military assertiveness, leaving them more doubtful than they already were about depending on the West to secure U.S.-backed alternative oil and gas supply lines.

Putin: Georgia war was all about McCain

Russia’s prime minister Vladimir Putin has advanced the novel thesis that what he called “the attack by Georgia on South Ossetia” was facilitated by the United States Republican Party in order to boost Senator John McCain’s poll ratings, which had been falling behind those of his rival, Barack Obama, reports.

This is clearly intended to play well with the crowds at the Democratic convention in Denver, Colorodo, this evening, when Senator Obama takes the platform. For Mr. Putin is an Obama supporter.

The logic of occupation

Victor Yasmann (RFE/RL) writes – just before today’s announcement of Russia’s recognition of Abkhazian and South Ossetian “independence” – about the looming diplomatic war between Russia and the West. Excerpt:

Russia is following a precise logic in its actions. Moscow will recognize the “independence” of the two republics and conclude agreements on political, military, and economic support with them. Furthermore, as Medvedev promised, Russia will give international guarantees to both republics, meaning that it will lobby for their recognition by the United Nations. From a legal point of view, international organizations can ignore pleas from the unrecognized republics themselves, but they cannot ignore appeals from Moscow.

In making those appeals, it seems Russia is not likely to stress the idea of self-determination, which is a potentially explosive argument for Russia itself and other CIS countries. Instead, it will actively push arguments related to charges of Georgian “genocide” and the legally “incorrect” way in which Georgia left the Soviet Union in 1991. In the latter case, Moscow will argue that the peoples of Abkhazia and South Ossetia never wanted to take such a step.

It seems unlikely that any Western countries will acknowledge the two republics anytime in the foreseeable future, just as Russia and most CIS countries will not recognize Kosovo. In addition, Russia’s main Asian partners — Iran, China, and India — will also decline to recognize Abkhazia and South Ossetia, inasmuch as they have their own real and potential ethnic troubles. But Russia will be satisfied even if the two regions establish a status similar to that of the Republic of Northern Cyprus, which has been recognized only by Ankara for decades.

The strengthening of Russia’s position in the CIS will lead to increased tensions with almost all countries that have significant Russia populations or large numbers of Russian citizens. Primarily, this means Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and Belarus.

As for Georgia’s territorial integrity, it has clearly fallen victim to Moscow’s insistence that Georgia never join NATO. Before the war, Moscow tried to achieve this goal through the frozen conflicts. Now, despite the war, Moscow’s main aim is unchanged.

The presence of Russian forces and the creation of buffer zones on Georgian territory will simply solidify the state of conflict and complicate Tbilisi’s efforts to join NATO. On the one hand, all NATO members have expressed solidarity with Georgia and are ready to offer help. On the other hand, granting NATO membership to a country entangled in a military confrontation with Russia will certainly not be easy. It is possible the United States might conclude a bilateral agreement with Georgia, similar to the one it concluded with Poland as part of the missile-defense accord.

Moscow is also no doubt hoping that, with time, Georgians will become increasingly enraged about the losses of Abkhazia and South Ossetia and will replace Saakashvili with a leadership that is more acceptable to Russia. Moscow might facilitate this scenario by stimulating separatist feelings in Mingrelia and Ajara, which border Abkhazia. These efforts could lead to the disintegration of Georgia or, at least, to that country losing its access to the Black Sea.

In order to counter such a scheme, the West would have to find quick and effective methods of integrating both Georgia and Ukraine into the Euro-Atlantic community.

Chechens sympathize with Georgia

Prague Watchdog’s Ramzan Akhmadov discusses Chechen reactions to Russia’s invasion of Georgia, and interviews some Chechen citizens:

“…The Georgians must be constantly alert, because they can expect a stab in the back at any moment. In 1997 people also believed that the Kremlin was sincere, when Yeltsin and Maskhadov signed a peace agreement. And what happened next?” asks a former deputy of the parliament of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria, who wishes to remain anonymous.

“I have no doubt that the Russian media will now do its best to create an image of Georgians as enemies of Russia. They’ll do it all with the same methods as they used on us Chechens. A mass zombification of the public at large, the preparing of public opinion, perhaps one or two bloody terrorist attacks with a lot of human victims, which will of course be carried out by “persons of Georgian nationality”, and Russia will once again enthusiastically respond to an incendiary call to ‘wipe out the terrorists in the toilet’”, he says with conviction. “The Kremlin will seek at any cost to overthrow the regime of Mikhail Saakashvili, who is stubborn enough to lead his country into NATO, and they’ll put their puppet in Tbilisi. And there’s a suitable candidate to hand – an ‘opposition figure’ who’s been kept warm by Moscow, Igor Giorgadze, Putin’s colleague in the KGB. In my view, some serious ordeals await Georgia in the near future. Very serious ones,” he says. (my tr.)

Read the whole thing here.

Russia’s 71st Tank Battalion Heading for Gori


16 August

08:47 – The battalion has stopped in the village Karaleti. The group is composed of lots of armored personnel carriers, tanks, army trucks and engineer unit. The staff meeting is taking place. The general joined later arriving by helicopter.

08:26 – General Alarm was declared in 71st Tank Battalion of the Russian army, stationed in Tskhinvali. The Battalion is now heading towards Gori. As of now, they are in the village of Karaleti.

00:30 The cases of looting and abuse of local civilians committed by separatists in Russian occupied villages of Abisi, Koda, Ptsa – Kareli district have been reported.