Russia and Georgia: Caucasian calculus By Eric Walberg

Georgia is to Russia as Colombia is to Venezuela, and Kaidanow spells trouble, analyses Eric Walberg

War clouds refuse to disperse a year after Georgia waged war against Russia. On the anniversary of Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili’s ill-fated invasion of South Ossetia 8 August, Russian President Dmitri Medvedev warned: “Georgia does not stop threatening to restore its ‘territorial integrity’ by force. Armed forces are concentrated at the borders near Abkhazia and South Ossetia, and provocations are committed,” including renewed Georgian shelling of the South Ossetian capital Tskhinvali.

What is the result of the Ossetia fiasco? Did Russia “win” or “lose”? Has it put paid to NATO expansion? What lessons did Saakashvili and his Western sponsors learn? Analysts have been sifting through the rubble over the past few weeks.

Some, such as Professor Stephen Blank at the US Army War College, dismiss any claim that Russia was justified in its response, that “even before this war there was no way Georgia was going to get into NATO.” He insists that Russia lost, that its response showed Russian military incompetence and weakness, resulting in huge economic losses, with the EU now seeking alternative energy sources and the US continuing to resist Russian sensitivities in its “near abroad”. Georgetown University Professor Ethan Burger compared the situation to “Germany’s annexation of Czechoslovakia”, with the US playing the role of plucky Britain facing the fascist hordes. Apparently Burger sees the Monroe Doctrine as a one-way street. Tell that to the Hondurans.

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Georgia: The War Which Will Help McCain Win By Yuri Baranchik

Strategic Culture Foundation

Georgia has done a great job as the proving ground during the five-day war. With the help of this war, those who are promoting the Republican nominee in the US presidential race have found out all they needed to know.

It was a part of Washington’s plan that Russia would respond resolutely to the US-prepared Georgian incursion into South Ossetia. As a result of Russia’s repelling the aggression, the US Administration obtained the information it needed to analyze the consequences of future armed conflicts in the post-Soviet space and Sen. J. McCain’s chances to become the next US President got a real boost. Besides, Washington had the opportunity to probe into the positions of Europe (obviously, the EU would not follow the US in the case of serious tensions with Russia) and China (which would rather not intervene).

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FT.com / World – US military trained Georgian commandos

FT.com / World – US military trained Georgian commandos

By Charles Clover in Moscow and Demetri Sevastopulo in Washington

Published: September 5 2008 18:49 | Last updated: September 5 2008 18:49

The US military provided combat training to 80 Georgian special forces commandos only months prior to Georgia’s army assault in South Ossetia in August.

The revelation, based on recruitment documents and interviews with US military trainers obtained by the Financial Times, could add fuel to accusations by Vladimir Putin, Russian prime minister, last month that the US had ‘orchestrated’ the war in the Georgian enclave.

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Blame Capitalism, Not Medvedev By Boris Kagarlitsky

04 September 2008

Whenever a writer promises to “reveal the truth behind recent events,” he usually digs up the latest conspiracy theory or divulges “inside information” that explains how key decisions were made. Unfortunately, I am not a big fan of conspiracy theories, nor am I privy to any secret negotiations between the Kremlin and the White House. Nevertheless, I am convinced that we should interpret the fundamental reasons behind the present U.S.-Russia confrontation much differently than the way the media have portrayed it.

Yes, Russia clashed with Georgia. Yes, there are problems in South Ossetia and Abkhazia. And yes, there have been many points of contention between Moscow and Washington. But why has it all erupted into such a heightened confrontation right now? Most important, why have bilateral relations deteriorated so much, even when both sides are seeking compromises to limit the scale of the conflict?

In order to understand what is happening, we must take a step back from the situation in the Caucasus and even from current U.S.-Russian relations. We are now witnessing the crisis in the global economic system.

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Russian South Ossetians Continue to Bury Thousands Killed, as Russia Stands Down … Georgia Celebrates With Eastern European Allies … McCain and Obama the Same as the `New Cold War' Begins …

TMPress International Newswire

TMPress ™ – United News & Press Features

(TMPress International – New York – September 02, 2008) – From the set of new Obama/Biden foreign policy advisers … Zbigniew Brzezinski, Richard Holbrooke and Madeleine Albright … all former Carter/Clinton State Dept/NSA credentials to their side. (And all friends of Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld and Richard Perle) – the Democrats continue their dream of replacing GOP NeoCons with Democrat NeoCons.

   The political leaders of the New West, the UK, Poland, the Ukraine and the Baltic States may have all showed up in Tbilisi, Georgia last week to celebrate Georgia’s great military blunder under Misha Saakashvili and ‘so-called independence to wage war’ with invasion of the Russified Autonomous Republic of South Ossetia, but few of them – including the Western media paid very little attention to the thousands that died in South Ossetia. All that is but Russia, who is carrying the lion’s share of the humanitarian resuscitation of Tskhinvali and South Ossetia with regard to food, medical, water and power to help the WW2-like destruction in all areas of the regional capital Tskhinvali and throughout the entire South Ossetian Territory.

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Back to the future: “Chaos and instability Washington’s official policy line” By William Bowles

28 August 2008

“In the operation the West conducted on Georgian soil against Russia – South Ossetians were the victims or hostages of it – we can see a rehearsal for an attack on Iran. There is a great deal of “new features” that today are being fine tuned in the theater of military operations.

“…[T]he likelihood of a war against Iran was growing with each passing day, “As a result, the situation in the region will become destabilized…causing chaos and instability” was becoming Washington’s official policy line. — ‘Russian analyst points to link between Georgian attack and Iran’.

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Georgia – Another Pawn in the ‘Great Game’ By William Bowles

14 August 2008

On August 7th, Georgia launched an unprovoked and vicious assault on the capital city of South Ossetia, Tskhinvali, killing perhaps as many 2000 civilians, many of them women, children and old people and destroying much of the city including the main hospital and the university.

“Grad missile, artillery, mortar, and machinegun fire has been reported. Dozens of blasts shatter the city every minute. Tens of armored vehicles and thousands of soldiers moved into the conflict zone.” – South Ossetia: The War has Begun! by Andrei Areshev, 9 August, 2008.

But you would not have known this from mainstream media coverage, nor would you have known about the US/NATO/EU involvement in arming and training the armed forces of Georgia.

“The Ex-Soviet Republic of Georgia and its invasion over the last two days of the Russian population of South Ossetia – the second half of North Ossetia inside the Russian Federation looks to be linked to Georgia’s breathtaking increases in its defense spending over the last few years, and it looks set to beat all records this year — in 2008 alone so far they are over 1 Billion USD of GDP – the fourth largest in Eurasia. In late June of 2006, the Georgian government increased the defense ministry’s budget of 513 million laris (315 million US dollars) by 442 million laris (260 million dollars). And the money, arms and military training is not from a `new growing economy’ it’s from the US taxpayer, the Pentagon and NATO — along with the USAID — and yes [the] other NATO aspirant – Ukraine.” — TMPress International -New York -August 08, 2008. ‘The Real Reason Behind the Military Buildup of Ex-Soviet Republic of Georgia and Its Invasion of Russian South Ossetia’.

And in an excellent overview of the situation by Michel Chossudovsky we read:

“Georgia has received 206 tanks, of which 175 units were supplied by NATO states, 186 armored vehicles (126 – from NATO) , 79 guns (67 – from NATO) , 25 helicopters (12 – from NATO) , 70 mortars, ten surface-to-air missile systems, eight Israeli-made unmanned aircraft, and other weapons. In addition, NATO countries have supplied four combat aircraft to Georgia. The Russian Defense Ministry said there were plans to deliver to Georgia 145 armored vehicles, 262 guns and mortars, 14 combat aircraft including four Mirazh-2000 destroyers, 25 combat helicopters, 15 American Black Hawk aircraft, six surface-to-air missile systems and other arms.” (Interfax News Agency, Moscow, in Russian, Aug 7, 2008) – ‘War in the Caucasus: Towards a Broader Russia-US Military Confrontation?’ By Michel Chossudovsky.

Israel’s role is also central to the current situation:

“Israel began selling arms to Georgia about seven years ago following an initiative by Georgian citizens who immigrated to Israel and became businesspeople.

“They contacted defense industry officials and arms dealers and told them that Georgia had relatively large budgets and could be interested in purchasing Israeli weapons,” says a source involved in arms exports.

“The military cooperation between the countries developed swiftly. The fact that Georgia’s defense minister, Davit Kezerashvili, is a former Israeli who is fluent in Hebrew contributed to this cooperation.

“His door was always open to the Israelis who came and offered his country arms systems made in Israel,” the source said. “Compared to countries in Eastern Europe, the deals in this country were conducted fast, mainly due to the defense minister’s personal involvement.”   – ‘War in Georgia: The Israeli Connection’ By Arie Egozi.

Over a thousand US military personnel have been stationed in Georgia, ostensibly to train the Georgian armed forces as well as private military contractors, in other words, all the usual suspects are involved in the Empire’s latest attempts at destabilizing the Caucasus region and isolating and surrounding Russia.

“In addition to the trainers, 1,000 soldiers from the Vicenza, Italy-based Southern European Task Force (Airborne) and the Kaiserslautern-based 21st Theater Sustainment Command, along with Marine reservists with the 3rd Battalion, 25th Marines out of Ohio, and the state of Georgia’s Army National Guard’s 1st Battalion, 121st Infantry participated in “Immediate Response 2008.”

“Operation Immediate Response 2008 was held from July 15-July 30, with U.S. personnel training about 600 troops at a former Soviet base near Tbilisi, the largest city and capital of Georgia. The goal of this operation was allegedly teaching combat skills for missions in Iraq. The Marines left already the country, but not the airmen.” ‘Israel and the US behind the Georgian aggression?’ By Shraga Elam.

Coincidence? I think not. The fact is, like so many before him, Saakashvili is yet another pawn in the ‘Great Game’ and the stakes are high, very high, for not only does Georgia sit astride the oil pipeline from the Caspian oil fields that supplies the West (and especially Israel) with oil, it is yet another strategic base highly desired by the US/NATO alliance as they attempt to expand eastwards and (yet again) encircle their rival in the Caucasus, Russia.

One has to ask the question: did Saakashvili ‘jump the gun’ or was it a calculated risk on the part of his US/EU/Israeli paymasters that Russia would do nothing about his all-out assault on the capital of Southern Ossetia? If the former, then Saakashvili really screwed things up for the empire. And if the latter then it was a disaster whose ramifications have yet to be felt, for regardless of the relentless Western propaganda campaign to vilify the Russians as the ‘aggressors’, it has propelled Russia back into the mainstream.

Mike Whitney, in his article ‘Putin Walks into a Trap’ ends by saying:

“South Ossetia was a trap and Putin took the bait. Unfortunately for Bush, the wily Russian prime minister is considerably brighter than anyone in the current administration. Bush’s plan will undoubtedly backfire and disrupt the geopolitical balance of power. The world might get that breather from the US after all.” – ‘Putin Walks into a Trap’ By Mike Whitney.

Trap? Well that might have been the intention but if so, it was a serious miscalculation especially Saakashvili’s all-out assault on Southern Ossetia, an unprovoked attack that Russia simply could not allow to go unpunished, after all he murdered not only Ossetians but also his ‘fellow’ Georgians. Had Saakashvili been a less arrogant (and clearly not a very bright individual in spite of his Harvard credentials) surrogate of the US, then he would have embarked on a less obvious ‘low intensity’ campaign, which is why I tend to think that he was not held on a tight enough leash by his masters (encouraged perhaps by the Israeli Zionists, who are anxious to get their blood-stained hands on all that oil).

My own thinking tends toward viewing the ‘event’ as a cynical diversion that had it succeeded then all well and good (for the pirates) and if not, well it’s ‘only’ Ossetians, Russians and Georgians who got sacrificed on the alter of global capital and it has to be viewed more an act of desperation than anything else.

Moreover, following the humanitarian disaster caused by Saakashvili’s actions has given the US the pretext to establish a direct and open political foothold inside Georgia under the pretext of supplying humanitarian aid. In other words, the US knew what the outcome of the Georgian attack would be and cared little about its outcome. Such an action has already come to pass and one justified (in public) by all the talk of Russia reestablishing its ‘sphere of influence’ following its humiliation after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Using Saakashvili as a Trojan Horse (or perhaps patsy would be a more accurate term), the US has, without firing a shot, gained a foothold in the Caucasus.

Georgia and the Media

What has to be factored in to this view is the seamless media presentation starting on the night of the invasion, led here in the UK by the BBC which has carried a relentless anti-Russian propaganda campaign that whitewashed the attack on Tskhinvali, in fact barely mentioning it in its ‘news’ reports, focusing instead on what it called “Russian aggression” and painted Saakashvili as some kind of patriot, defending no less, the territorial integrity of Georgia!

This was accompanied by highly misleading (ie, unidentified) video clips of the destruction with the voiceover creating the impression that what we were viewing were the results of Russian ‘aggression’. And this was relentless, round-the-clock disinformation.

The BBC reports the 7 August attack on the capital as follows:

THURSDAY 7 AUGUST

“Georgian forces and separatists in South Ossetia agree to observe a ceasefire and hold Russian-mediated talks to end their long-simmering conflict.

“Hours later, Georgian forces launch a surprise attack, sending a large force against the breakaway province and reaching the capital Tskhinvali.” –  ‘Day-by-day: Georgia-Russia crisis’, 14 August, 2008.

Given the nature of the BBC’s ‘news’ coverage, I lean toward the view that the British state were (along with the US) well aware of what Saakashvili intended as the entire media coverage has all the hallmarks of a well planned propaganda campaign and not merely a knee-jerk anti-Russian diatribe.

Big Brother Beeb hauled out all the usual neo-con suspects, especially the butcher of Yugoslavia, Richard Holbrooke who got major airplay on the BBC’s News 24 TV channel:

“The Russians deliberately provoked [the fighting] and timed it for the Olympics. This is a long-standing Russian effort to get rid of President Saakashvili.”

No counter-view was presented (aside that is from Russians, whose views are obviously ‘biased’ and hence can be safely discounted). Holbrooke’s comment that “The Russians deliberately provoked [the fighting]” was accepted without question by the BBC interviewer, though how they “provoked” Saakashvili into launching his murderous attack was not explained (a Russian peace-keeping force has been stationed in Southern Ossetia since 1994 without any major incident) so how, exactly, did the Russians provoke the fighting?

The point here is that the BBC presented the entire disaster as if it was instigated by the Russians and it’s a view followed slavishly by the print media as the following quotes from the London Independent (13 August, 2008) clearly reveal:

“Russia’s goals in embarking on the war in Georgia were twofold. It wanted to get rid of a troublesome leader who was too independent for Russia’s liking, and had attracted the personal enmity of Mr. Putin.” ‘Moscow flexed its military muscle and the left the West humiliated,’ Analysis by Anne Penketh (p.7)

She continues, firstly by contradicting the statement above when she says:

“No one in Georgia or a Western capital doubts that Moscow’s lightning retaliation when Georgian forces launched their surprise attack on the South Ossetian capital was long planned.” (ibid)

Penketh goes on:

“Mr Saakashvili ignored Western warnings””including those from the US Secretary of State, Condoleeza Rice”¦not to respond to Russian provocation. But in the end he fell into the Russian trap by ordering an ill-planned strike while the eyes of the world were on the Olympics. He cannot have anticipated the overwhelming response from the nuclear power across the border, involving massive firepower from tanks, warplanes and battle-hardened Russian soldiers.” (ibid)

So it’s the Russians who set the trap, but like the BBC, whose line the Independent parrots almost exactly, how the Russians ‘lured’ Saakashvili into his “ill-planned strike” is not revealed.

Toward the end of the ‘analysis’, Penketh, no doubt expressing a more circumspect opinion now doing the rounds of the ruling elite, tells us:

“But Mr Saakashvili’s headstrong and impulsive behaviour [sic!] in the crisis, following his disastrous crackdown on demonstrators last November, has eroded Western support.” (ibid)

The arrogance of Western journalists never ceases to amaze me when the slaughter of thousands is described as “headstrong and impulsive behaviour” !

But for the ‘official view’ we need to look at the Independent’s editorial:

“Perhaps the biggest mystery, though, is why Georgia decided to take on Russia now. Of course, the situation had long been profoundly unsatisfactory from Georgia’s point of view. South Ossetia and Abkhazia were outside its control and undisguised platforms for Russian trouble-making.”

/…/

If Russia intended a recent increase in skirmishing to lure the Georgians into a war they could not win, the tactic worked to perfection.” (p.30)

It ends:

“Russia’s barely contested military sweep into Georgia was a flexing of its muscles that leaves it undisputed master of the region once again.” (ibid)

So the official line is that the entire affair was a cunning Russian plot that the (by now) gullible (and let’s not forget “impulsive” ) Saakashvili fell for and if you believe this, you’ll believe anything the Western media throw at you.

See also:

Georgia Newslinks Part 2 for more on the foothold the US has gained in Georgia under the pretext of humanitarian aid.