“Strange game. The only winning move is not to play.”

by lestro

Apparently, the US and UK have decided to cancel scheduled war games with the Russians in light of their recent attacks on Georgia:

A senior US defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity Tuesday, said that the August 15-23 exercises involving Russian, French, British and US warships in the Sea of Japan “have been scrapped.” The exercises were to involve an onshore component in the Russian port of Vladivostok.

“In the wake of this conflict, there is no way that we can proceed with this joint exercise at this time,” the official said.

I believe Russia’s response was something to the effect of “That’s okay with us, we don’t need the games anymore as we found a real war to practice in…”

Besides, the only good War Games are the ones that involve Matthew Broderick and the WOPR that just wants to play a nice game of chess.

However, given that Russia and the West are once again viewing each other suspiciously through figurative and literal gun sights, maybe we should not have canceled. It does always help to get a close-up view of what your enemy is up to…

Especially since the Russian Army seems to have reverted to Red Army tactics. Yesterday, for example, the Russians denied that they sent troops into Gori, a city located forty miles outside the Georgian capital. Reporters in the area were reporting that tanks were rolling in, but to an old Soviet like Putin, that means nothing because if he said they were not there, they were not there. Right?

Nerves frayed all day after a Russian tank battalion occupied the Georgian city of Gori, a move Georgia condemned as flagrant defiance of a Western-brokered agreement struck only hours earlier. Gori is only 40 miles from Tbilisi, the capital, and rumors circulated all day of an attack on Tbilisi…

The presence of Russians in Gori was particularly nervewracking; Mr. Saakashvili compared the notion of Russian peacekeepers in Gori to “the fox guarding the chickens.”

So maybe they were there just a little.

The Russians, on the other hand, were quick to make Saakasvili’s point for him:

A Russian battalion commander, noting that Gori is only 40 miles from the capital, sent a menacing message to Mr. Saakashvili, long a thorn in the side of Russian leaders.

“If he doesn’t understand the situation, we’ll have to go further,” said the commander, speaking on condition of anonymity. “He doesn’t seem to understand that the Russian Army is much stronger than the Georgian Army. His tanks remain in their places. His air force is dead. His navy is also. His army is demoralized.”

Sergey V. Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, said the troops were supporting peacekeepers, a role expressly laid out in the six-point agreement.

Now, I don’t speak Russian, but I do wonder if “peacekeeper” means exactly the opposite in their language, because that sounded distinctly like a threat to me.

Meanwhile, the ceasefire remains firmly in place:

In the western part of the country, Russians sank four military ships at the Black Sea port of Poti on Wednesday afternoon, according to Mayor Vano Vakhinadze.

Lovely.

But we are finally starting to get a look at what caused all this. In dispute is a “breakaway province” called South Ossetia, which is still crazy for Russia after all these years. The Georgian army stepped in last week to try and put these folks in their place, at which time the Red Army invaded.

This is kind of like Canada finally having enough of this Quebec separatist talk and invading only to be attacked by France (assuming of course the French had a real military, with guns that shot bullets instead of white flags…).

According to the Russians, the Georgians were committing atrocities that need to be stopped.

But a closer look shows that the Georgians were actually trying to stop the South Ossetians (?) from doing what the Russians claimed the Georgians were up to:

Meanwhile, investigators began to look into allegations of atrocities committed in the separatist enclave of South Ossetia, where the war erupted on Aug. 8. Human Rights Watch reported that researchers witnessed “terrifying scenes of destruction” in four deserted ethnic Georgian villages, and said they the villages had been looted and burned by South Ossetian militias.

Anna Neistat, one of the researchers, said by telephone from Tskhinvali, the capital of South Ossetia, that they had found no evidence so far to substantiate Russian claims of widespread brutality by Georgian troops.

Human Rights Watch has been able to confirm fewer than 100 deaths — a far cry from the death toll of 2,000 regularly cited by Moscow.

“If the Russian government continues to claim that 2,000 people were killed as the result of the conflict, it’s time to provide some evidence, it’s time to provide some data, name, age, gender, the circumstances of death,” Ms. Neistat said.

The Georgian president is calling Russia’s actions “classic World War II-type and Baltic-type ethnic cleansing,” while the Russians are calling for the Georgian president to be brought up on War Crimes at The Hague.

Fair enough. As long as we bring in Putin and Medvedev (which, though I don’t actually speak Russian, I believe is the old Soviet word for “puppet” or “figurehead”) to answer for their crimes too.

Hell, let’s bring in Bush too while we’re at it. Four for the price of one.

And I will put money on Saaaka-what’s-his-face walking away before any of the other three…

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