2008/08/09

Georgia

Well, I hate it when my fears come true.
The South Ossetia crisis looks almost like a real, conventional war.

It's ridiculous how much the public pays attention to South Ossetians. Those people are unimportant for Putin and their cessation from Georgia is not the real reason why we see a limited scale war in the Caucasus.

It's also not about oil. Pipelines don't become magic, even not if you call them "oil pipeline". Some people get mad over anything associated with oil, but an oil business in the region would be a reason for Russia to establish good relations, not to feed internal conflicts.

In my opinion it's all about the definition of the Russian sphere of influence. Georgia (and btw, also Ukraine) is still neutral ground.

Putin wants to at least keep influence in all former Soviet Republics. That failed grossly in the Baltics. It worked very fine in Byelorussia and most Southern states (although the U.S. presence that were established for the Afghanistan war questions that). It never worked fine in Georgia since Shewardnadze lost power.

What may be Russia's intent in this conflict?
My guesses;

(1) Weaken the Saakashvili government (Western-friendly), achieve a government change towards a government that's at least neutral between NATO/USA and Russia.

(2) Keep the conflict alive for later opportunities to meddle in Georgia if (1) is no complete success.

The probably most important and most interesting detail of the conflict are the allegations of excessive violence of Georgia's troops against civilians or civilian settlements.

This could be exploited by Russia for two purposes:

a) Keep the Western powers from intervening openly in Georgias favour. Strong support is almost impossible to justify if Georgia is suddenly being painted as bad guy in our medias.

b) Weaken the Saakashvili government by exposing its wrongdoings in this case.


The conflict will remain local in my opinion. A full-scale war would need to be launched by Russia, but it's not in Russia's interest. Georgian nationalism might be fueled against Russia by a full-scale war (so far, it's more on the level of a border skirmish). Such a nationalism would undermine any Russia-friendly government for one generation at least.

My expectation: The fighting wills top soon once the Georgian government realizes that its operation failed and that Russian troops keep its army from taking (and keeping) full control of South Ossetia.
A cease-fire and (additional) peacekeepers will be arranged by using the institutions of the U.N..
Russia will do its best to press all Georgian wrongdoings into Western and Georgian public discussion, and the South Ossetians (Russians) will help a lot in this info campaign.


The struggle for the neutral countries Ukraine and Georgia that happens between NATO/USA and Russia needs to become a hot topic for our public discussions.
It's not acceptable that our supposedly democratic states handle such elementary matters without public supervision, with intelligence services and diplomacy alone.
It was a shocking move by the USA some months ago when it attempted to get Georgia into the NATO - without any discussions in the public.

This struggle for Ukraine and Georgia deserves public attention and discussion in NATO countries.

Sven Ortmann

3 comments:

  1. How much value does your "opinion" have, when you did not even include the region in your equally vacuous geostrategy post?
    Maybe you can edit the previous post to appear more prescient?

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  2. Georgia is interesting as a state between two blocs, but is not in a geostrategic really interesting position.
    The same applies to Ukraine, which is bigger and more important.

    Dozens of countries are as interesting like Georgia, it's really nothing special.

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  3. Sven,

    Much agreed that Ukraine is the place to really watch; of course (it goes without saying) Russia will never, not ever, willingly let Ukraine join and become integrated into NATO.

    As to Georgia, well it's caught between a rock and a hard place anyway, and by attacking South Ossetia, it has played straight into Russia's hands. Bad for Georgia needless to say, but I would add that the possibility of Russian control of at least a portion of the territory through which the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline passes should not be completely discounted, or its implications underestimated (nor overestimated on the other hand). Within the overall context of Russia's near-dominance of oil and gas supplies to Europe, a Russian ability to control or at least disrupt the BCT pipeline more or less at will further consolidates Russian leverage over Europe's will and ability to formulate and to execute independent policies.

    Best,

    Norfolk

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