Russia is so much better at war
August 10, 2008 14 Comments
Michael Goulding/Orange County Register/MCT via McClatchy
Moscow appears to have calculated that the west, tied up in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and dependent on Russia for oil and gas, will do nothing to support Georgia beyond expressing impotent concern.
It is as if they’ve been waiting patiently. The Guardian reports on August 11, 2008:
In a series of media interviews, [Georgian President] Saakashvili sought to bring the United States fully behind him.
After speaking to Bush by phone, he told Germany’s Rhein-Zeitung newspaper: “[Bush] understands that it’s not really about Georgia but in a certain sense it’s also an aggression against America. The Russians want the whole of Georgia. The Russians need control over energy routes from central Asia and the Caspian Sea. In addition, they want to get rid of us, they want regime change. Every democratic movement in this neighbouring region must be got rid of,” he was quoted as saying.
From Bloomberg on August 10, 2008, another way to put it would be:
The conflict could endanger U.S. aspirations to secure an emerging energy corridor linking Central Asia to Europe and deals a blow to its plans for bringing the former Soviet republic into the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s orbit.
… Georgia is a key link in a U.S.-backed “southern energy corridor” that connects the Caspian Sea region with world markets, bypassing Russia. The BP Plc-led Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline to Turkey runs about 100 kilometers (60 miles) south of the South Ossetian capital, Tskhinvali.
Another way to look at it:
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.
Half of Georgia’s 2,000 troops in Iraq plan to leave the country by Monday to join the fight against separatists in the breakaway province of South Ossetia, with the rest following as soon as possible, their commander said.
“First of all we need to remove 1,000 guys from here within 96 hours, after that the rest of the guys,” Colonel Bondo Maisuradze told The Times this morning.
“The US will provide us with the transportation,” he added.
As McClatchy notes on August 9, 2008, Russia knows how to wage a war:
WASHINGTON — Even as it accuses Russia of using “disproportionate” force in the conflict over Georgia’s rebel South Ossetia province, the United States find itself with few diplomatic or military options to deter Moscow’s ferocious air and ground assault.
In fact, most of the key cards, including the power to veto any United Nations [action], were held by Russia …
Update: a map of the region dated August 12, 2008 from the BBC:
Update: via The Guardian on August 11, 2008:
The Georgian authorities said the town of Gori, 40 miles north of Tbilisi, had, in effect, fallen to the Russians, who were also advancing from the breakaway province of Abkhazia in the west into territory previously under Georgian control.
“The Georgian army is retreating to defend the capital. The government is urgently seeking international intervention to prevent the fall of Georgia and further loss of life,” said the Georgian government.
and the Associated Press on August 11, 2008:
The Georgian president said Russia had sent 20,000 troops and 500 tanks into Georgia. He said Russian warplanes were bombing roads and bridges, destroying radar systems and targeting Tbilisi’s civilian airport. One Russian bombing raid struck the Tbilisi airport area only a half-hour before EU envoys arrived, he said.
Another hit near key Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline, which carries Caspian crude to the West. No supply interruptions have been reported.
Russian troops were reported in control of Georgia’s main east-west highway outside the central Georgian town of Gori. In the west, they seized Georgia’s main port at Poti, according to the U.S. State Department, and occupied a Georgian military base. In the north, they forced Georgian troops from the disputed city of Tskhinvali. Everywhere, Russian jets had complete dominion of the skies, from which they bombed and strafed retreating Georgians at will.
Update: Via McClatchy on August 12, 2008:
For three days, Russian jets and bombers have unleashed a massive aerial campaign against Georgian forces that, more than anything, dramatically changed the war’s direction.
and via the Guardian on August 12, 2008:
“We do not yet have a peace deal, we have a provisional cessation of hostilities, but this is significant progress,” Sarkozy said after several hours of talks with Medvedev in Moscow and before taking the terms to Saakashvili in Tbilisi.
The key Russian demands are that the Georgian leader pledges, in an agreement that is signed and legally binding, to abjure all use of force in his country in any attempt to resolve the territorial disputes with the two breakaway pro-Russian provinces of South Ossetia and Abkhazia; and that Georgian forces withdraw entirely from South Ossetia and are no longer part of the joint “peacekeeping” contingent there with Russian and local Ossetian forces.
Medvedev also insisted that the populations of the two breakaway regions had to be allowed to vote on whether they wanted to join Russia, prefiguring a possible annexation by Moscow that would enfeeble and diminish Georgia and leave Saakashvili looking crushed.
If Saakashvili balked at the tough terms from Moscow, Sergei Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, said: “We will be forced to take other measures to prevent any repetition of the situation that emerged because of the outrageous Georgian aggression.”
and from the Associated Press on August 12, 2008:
TBILISI, Georgia (AP) – Georgia’s president has told a news conference that he agrees to plan to end the fighting with Russia over breakaway regions in Georgia.
Mikhail Saakashvili told reporters after talks with French President Nicolas Sarkozy that “there should be a cease-fire.”
The plan was negotiated by Sarkozy and has also been agreed to by Russia’s president. It calls for both Russian and Georgian troops to move back to their original positions.
Some sticking points remain, including the status of Russian peacekeepers in Georgia’s breakaway provinces of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.