Friday, August 15, 2008

Marching through Georgia

Georgian President Saakashvili has had better weeks.

Yes and there were Union men who wept with joyful tears,
When they saw the honored flag they had not seen for years;

Hardly could they be restrained from breaking forth in cheers,

While we were marching through Georgia.

-American Civil War Marching Song

So what the hell is going on in Georgia? There is a lot of navel gazing going on; lots of talk about what the response should be, politicians are standing in long lines outside of television studios patiently waiting their turn to bloviate on the subject and talking heads are happily jabbering away about that bloviation. But there is little obvious discussion about what exactly happened and continues to happen. So lets break it down.

More after the jump...

First of all, this is a truly modern military confrontation, with forces deployed not only on the physical but also on the diplomatic, the virtual and the public opinion fronts. Lets just look at the actual physical military situation:

Quick background: The players here, arranged by height, are Russia, Georgia, South Ossetia and, to a similar extent, Abkhanzia. If you want to over-simplify it to a ridiculous degree, Russia is to Georgia as Georgia is to South Ossetia. Georgia broke off from Russia in 1991 following the collapse of the Soviet Union; South Ossetia has been trying to do the same thing with Georgia since.., well, since 1991. They have been at a standoff, more or less, ever since, basically operating as independent states, but not officially.

Apparently the United States warned Georgia last month that they believed Russia was looking for an excuse to take military action and that Georgia should stay cool. In response, Georgia said fuck that and started military action in South Ossetia on August first. The Russians said cool it or we are coming in there. Georgia didn't cool it and... Russia came in there.

What is at stake? Georgia thinks that Russia is trying to topple their government and replace it with a puppet, in the same general manner in which Russia did in Chechnya in 1999 (for those not up on their Caucasian geography, Chechnya is on the northeast border of Georgia). Russia, on the other hand, claims it is protecting the estimated 90% of South Ossetians who consider themselves Russian citizens. Real Politik suggests that it is probably more likely that the entire confrontation has more to do with Russia's desire to control regional energy supplies and its position as supplier to Europe.

Now, if there is any ambiguity whatsoever at this point as to who the bad guy is, just look at Russia's response to the collateral issue of the US-Poland missile defense deal:

"Poland, by deploying (the system) is exposing itself to a strike - 100 percent," Nogovitsyn, the [Russian] deputy chief of staff, was quoted as saying.

He added, in clear reference to the agreement, that Russia's military doctrine sanctions the use of nuclear weapons "against the allies of countries having nuclear weapons if they in some way help them." Nogovitsyn that would include elements of strategic deterrence systems, he said, according to Interfax
Holy crapjacks. Russia is threatening to NUKE Poland. Are you fucking kidding me? Russia is completely out of control. Russia is trying to bully neighboring countries into staying away from the west, but Poland's response is likely to be the result; running even faster towards the west for protection. If it seems that nothing much is going on to stop Russia, don't worry; all sorts of shit is going on behind the scenes and this will all get sorted out. Russia has way too much to lose.

Tomorrow, I explain and solve the Arab-Israeli conflict in three paragraphs.

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