Monday, August 18, 2008
Instead the Russians were able to annihilate their army in 4 days of combat & the Americans, despite encouraging it, were useless. Georgia may have been weak but a counterattack in response to a surprise attack is not easy. Big countries can bungle in military matters, as Stalin proved in 1939 in his war against Finland.
Nor can we, with the experience of Croatia, Bosnia & Kosovo, make any credible complaint about not respecting national sovereignty or "excessive bombing".
We live on the same planet as Russia (& they on the same planet as us) & we have to live together. For that we actively need to embrace international law. The NATO countries have been at the forefront of saying that international law doesn’t exist & it is perfectly OK for big countries & alliances to invade smaller ones. The Russians noted NATO’s support of the “cleansing” of the Serb enclaves in Croatia (on which Georgia’s actions were clearly patterned) & of our bombing of Yugoslavia to seize Kosovo. We have sown that wind & cannot expect, not merely Russia, but anybody, to allow us to be a referee enforcing rules that we have already torn up.
In fact the Russians have gone to some lengths to merely bend laws that we have previously broken.
Law is not a luxury but a necessity for any society & as the world gets smaller adherence to international law becomes ever more vital. We should work with the Russians & everybody else to strengthen such law & establish consistent & relatively impartial rules on ethnic sovereignty (& many other causes of disputes) and then to keep them.. The alternative is what happened in August 1914 but with modern weapons.
Went to half a dozen papers but, as far as I know, wasn't used. It is fairly long & perhaps a little philosophical for popular usage. I have highlighted the last paragraph because I consider the necessity of producing laws that allow us to live together safely to be more important than any one war. While Putin did a thoughtful speech on it last year the NATO leaders seem oblivious to the idea that rules are anything other than occasional propaganda weapons.
I have also put this summary up for somebody on the Sun online:
The question of where boundaries "really" are has been the major subject of wars for millenia. South Ossetia was part of Georgia since Stalin drew the boundary in the 1920s but he was hardly intending to draw an international boundary. Since the break up of the USSR the Georgians have never controlled Ossetia though they do claim it. The Ossetians recently voted 99% for independence & I suspect, after recent events, they will be even less happy about being under Georgia. I don't think there is a "right" solution to this - if anything the recreation of the USSR would seem to be the best for them all but I don't see any western leader proposing that.
The western position is that Georgia is a sovereign state & its borders are unchangeable & that is that. That has some appeal at least to the extent that everybody would know where they were. Except this is where western recent history is involved. On the other hand there was a legal peacekeeping agreement which does have validity in international law & the Georgians did kill Russian peacekeepers as well as Ossetians who were Russian citizens. International law also allows, indeed requires, intervention where genocide is happening.
We faced exactly this problem in Yugoslavia & said that the fact that Croatia & Bosnia were parts of sovereign Yugoslavia. We did & indeed still do promise to "take no action against the territorial integrity or unity" of Yugoslavia under the Helsinki Treaty. Having done that we then declared them sovereign states & adopted the position that the Serb areas of them had no right to secede, even going so far as to help ethnically cleanse & murder the entire 250,000 Serbian region of Krajina claimed by Croatia - the Georgian attack on Ossetia was clearly patterned on this genocide.
Then we grabbed Kosovo on the grounds that Serbia's sovereign rights don't matter.
What this means is that we have bent & broken international law on the subject, time after time. We cannot therefore speak with any ethical voice on which particular redefinition of international law Russia should be held to now.
The Russians have made a specific offer to accept Georgian sovereign rights if NATO accepts Serbia's rights. Obviously that has had no coverage in our media &, to be fair, the Russians may have proposed it precisely because the know NATO wouldn't accept it & thus show up their hypocrisy.
2 other points:
As in the Croatian situation, there were hundreds of US soldiers there "training" Georgian soldiers & it is virtually impossible that this was not done with a US go ahead - as the Croatian genocide certainly was, though the US denied it.
Russia has gone to considerable lengths to minimise their actions. Having completely annihilated Georgia's army in 4 days nothing prevented them occupying the whole country. They have worked not to damage the western gas pipeline - they could have knocked it out with 1 bomb, thereby strengthening their hand for future negotiations.
We live in a shrinking world where even small countries can produce WMDs. The world desperately needs international law. Everything the Russians have done, both now & in the past has been legal & relatively moral, in a situation where no choices are perfect, whereas our actions have been neither. We should work together with the Russians & others to strengthen & clarify international law.
If that meant bringing Clinton, Blair etc etc to trial as for their war crimes & genocide against Yugoslavia that is a price I would be happy to pay. :-)
This was planned, not a spontaneous war by Pavel Felgengauer in “ Novaya Gazeta ”
August 14, 2008
It became very clear to me today, that the Russian incursion into Georgia was planned in advance, indeed the final political decision to complete the preparation and to start the was in August, was, apparently, made back in April.
And Ossetians were intentionally provoking the Georgians, and any response, harsh or mild, would have been used as a pretext for the attack. And if the Georgians would have tolerated without a squeak, then Abkhazians would have started, just as they did presently, the long planned operation for the “clearing” of the upper part of the Kodor Gorge. If the war is planned, the pretext can always be found.
By August, the significant part of the [Russian] Black Sea Fleet was prepared for a long military operation, the “permanent readiness” ground units, the Airborne units and the marines were ready for deployment, and in the course of the “Caucuses 2008” maneuvers, which ended on August 2 a week before the war, the Air Force, the Navy and the Army completed their final readiness checks on the territories, adjacent to the Georgian border. Simultaneously, by the beginning of August, the rail troops in Abkhazia completed the repairs of the railroads, which were used this week to move the tanks, the heavy equipment and the supplies to the Inguri [river] for the approximately 10,000 person large group of troops, which without any reason or formal cause invaded Western Georgia. Of course, the urgently repaired railroad was not used for any “national-commercial purposes” as officially stated by Moscow. The state propaganda apparatus also conducted preparations, subjecting the population under it’s influence with constant reports about the inevitable Georgian attack and that the US and the West (which absolutely did not need this conflict) are behind it.
Of course, one can’t keep the troops and the navy in 24-hour deployment readiness indefinitely. The weather gets worse in October; the snow will close the passes of the main Caucuses Range. Therefore, the second part of August was the final deadline for the beginning of the full-scale war with Georgia.
In April, during the NATO summit in Bucharest, where Putin personally participated, it became clear that Georgia’s and Ukraine’s entry into the alliance, although belayed, is inevitable. Russian civilian and military leadership honestly warned the West as well as the authorities in Tbilisi and Kiev, that the attempts to “pull into NATO” (according to our diplomats’ word) countries, which Moscow considers its traditional bailiwick, will start a crisis. It was announced that Russia will not allow Georgia’s joining NATO “by any means” but that did not influence Mikhael Saakashvili. Then the events started developing with accelerating speed .
Putin directed his government to “develop the means for providing specific assistance” to Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which legally denied Georgia’s state sovereignty [over them.] Then, a Russian fighter plane shot down a Georgian UAV in Abkhazian sky. Combat units with heavy weapons were deployed to Abkhazia under the guise of “peacekeeper” and later on – railroad troops. There were a series of maneuvers, Russian combat aircraft incursions into Georgian airspace; basically, a rejection of a diplomatic settlement of the conflict and, finally the war which was supposed to complete the cleansing of Abkhazia and South Ossetia from Georgian population, Tbilisi – from Saakashvili and Caucuses – from NATO and Americans. In principal Moscow is even prepared to formally keep Georgian territorial integrity in a form of some kind of confederation and to give Georgians a chance to democratically elect a president anyone, who would preferably be approved by Moscow.
Russian leadership prepared the incursion into Chechnya in 1999 exactly the same way. Back then, according to the former Prime Minister Sergey Stepashin, a decision was made in the early spring to start the war by August-September. All summer, engineering and other preparations for the deployment of the strike forces took place. Then, Putin and his team were resurrecting the territorial integrity of the Russian federation; today, it appears they started to line up the post-Soviet space.
In 1999, the incursion of the Chechen fighters into Dagestan became a pretext for the war, but its unexpected initial success lead to a crisis and to the replacement of Stepashin with Putin. Today, the unexpectedly powerful strike by Saakashvili – instant decimation of the Ossetian units – also seriously confused the game. Moscow does not have any more ability to pretend that brave Ossetians are fighting Saakashvili regime, and our forces are just trying to separate the parties, establish peace and are deploying troops only for that purpose. They had to start an undisguised invasion, take losses and to subject themselves to the Western pressure, which for the Russian bureaucracy, integrated into the world economic system is impossible to bear.
The troops had to be deployed to battle in relatively small units. Tremendous traffic jams occurred on the way to Dzhava and Tskhinvali in the Rok Tunnel (six kilometers long), which, because of its narrow width can only be used alternatively in a one way direction. Outdated, worn Russian equipment constantly broke down. The evacuation of the wounded and of the civilian population and approach of the completely unneeded volunteers – all that caused a monstrous and lasting to this day supply crisis, while the relatively small units had to be deployed to battle piece by piece, right of the trucks.
The select units, including the Airborne Spetznaz, which were moved to Tskhinvali on August 8, for almost two days could not dislodge the Georgians from the city, despite the massive use of the artillery, tanks and war planes. Even the commander of the 58 th Army General Anatoliy Khrulev, who went to the front lines, was wounded by the Georgians. Georgian regular troops left Tskhinvali only after the orders from the political leadership. The Deputy General Staff Commander [of Russian forces] Anatoliy Nogovitsyn admitted that the Georgian armed forces are not the same as ones that lost the war to the separatists 15 years ago. “Presently, it is a modern, well-mobilized group of troops, equipped with modern weapons.”
Georgina troops continued their retreat after leaving Tskhinvali. By August 11, almost all of the army was concentrated around Tbilisi. By then, over 20,000 of our [Russian] soldiers were deployed on the Georgian territory, including South Ossetia and Abkhazia. The advance units approached Gori, occupied Zugdidi, entered Senaki and destroyed a Georgian military base located there. The advance recon unites entered the city port of Poti. Georgian troops retreated almost everywhere, not engaging in battles. Russian troops got too far away from their supply based, there are to few of them for the successful occupation, their movement around Georgia lost sense and was only causing further equipment losses because of mechanical breakdowns. By ordering the retreat, Georgian leadership preserved the regular army, which by a blitz defeat of the Ossetians raised it’s prestige in the society. By preserving the Army, Saakashvili, as it appears to him, preserved united Georgia and, simultaneously a base for his own regime, while letting Western leaders and diplomats deal with the Russian invasion.
All during its history, Georgian people lived at the cusp of warring world empires and learned such flexibility in the matters of survival and using one strong opponent against the other that our people can’t even dream about. Some present Russian leaders only think that they are acting like Stalin did.
The destroyed military bases and other infrastructure will be rebuild with the Western money and that would create more jobs. Destroyed radars and weapons will be replaced with newer and better ones. At the same time, Saakashvili successfully resolved his most important strategic task – he finally internationalized the Ossetian and the Abkhazian issues, which can eventually lead to the forcing of Russia out and the reduction of its influence in the region. Back in the end of June in Tbilisi, the French ambassador to Georgia Eric Fournier [spelling] stated in the presence of the Novaya Gazeta correspondent: “The world community does not consider Abkhazia and Ossetia a serious problem. We have Iran, Afghanistan, Sudan, Libya, Iraq. No one in Brussels is considering a possibility of deploying international peacekeeping forces in the region. EU does not have spare soldiers for such an unimportant issue. This is a Russian matter. Russia is a key player in the region.”
Now, everything has radically changed, Russian invasion woke Europe up. French president Nikola Sarkozy proposed a peace plan, which was coordinated with NATO and Japanese allies and involves the unconditional cessation of warfare, return of all the refugees, including to Abkhazia, complete withdrawal of Russian and Georgian troops from the conflict zones and deployment of the international peacekeeping forces, which would also include Russian contingent. The previous format of singular Russian peacekeeping is not completely unacceptable to the West, our aggression crossed everything out. For the regular people in the Caucuses, for Ossetians, Georgians, Abkhaz and others this outcome means true peace, security tremendous foreign assistance for the rebuilding and the development of the region. For Russia, this can mean a military and political defeat as a result of a seemingly successful incursion.
Understandably, the French plan was rejected out of hand by out ambassador to UN Vitaly Churkin as unacceptable., but then Moscow started to maneuver. The present Russia, dependent upon the West can talk a lot about its resurgent might, but everything come out differently in reality. It is not just the matter of the old equipment constantly breaking down and Georgians being able to shoot down our supersonic strategic bombers. All Russian leaders, whether from the faction of “siloviki” as well as the “liberals” – in their essence are billionaire business people, who’s personal interests are connected to the West, to the stock market rating, who’s main political goal – Russia’s “modernization” and the invasion of Georgia causes them all losses and bigger problems in the future. While preserving Russian integration in the West, on Tuesday President Dmitry Medvedev declared “the end to operations to impose peace in South Ossetia.” According to [Gen.] Nogovitsyn, that means end of military action.
But it is not over yet. Moscow still hopes to replace Saakashvili, although it is doubtful that it could happen and any successor, including the exiled Irakli Okruashvili, with whom Saakashvili publicly made peace, would not be better. The conflict, apparently, is compounded with strong personal dislike between Saakashvili and Putin. There are rumors in the diplomatic and political circles in Tbilis that there witnessed to Saakashvili speaking disparagingly about those “from Kremlin.” In our personal meeting, Saakashvili told me and allowed me to print that he heard about those rumors, but never said anything of the kind and that it is a “Russian special services provocation.”
It is intolerable to accept that acerbic Saakashvili, who took Georgia out of CIS, declared Abkhazia and South Ossetia officially occupied territories, with whom our leaders can not compete in public street politics, will stay in power in Tbilisi. Near-Kremlin circles are already demanding to create a special international tribunal for the crimes in Caucasus. (“Novaya Gazeta” considers that, by the way, necessary under a condition that the investigation would cover all parties in the conflict – P.F.). However, even if such tribunal were to be suddenly created today, although there is already the International Criminal Court which deals with international war crimes, its jurisdiction could apply to the Russian military-political leadership too, which [leadership] could be the first to be impacted for the past affairs in the Caucasus and for the present ones. Once established, the International Tribunal would not depend upon the Russian authorities, but would be subject to the law.
According to the witnessed, the missile brigade from the 58 th Army has been deployed to the Georgian territory through the Rok Tunnel – the Multiple Launch Rocket System “Uragan [Tornado]” and ballistic missiles “Tochka-U.” The “Grad” MLRS (122mm caliber) is highly ineffective during the strikes against the cities and the dug-in troops, unlike the much more powerful “Uragan” (220 mm). “Tochka-U” (110 km range) can hit Tbilisi and the surrounding districts from the Tskhinvali area. The fragmentation-impact war head for “Tochka-U” would cover 3 hectares [around 7 acres], the cluster one – 7.
MLRS “Uragan” and “Tochka-U” missiles were massively used for shelling in Chechnya in 1999 and 2000, which caused massive civilian casualties and destruction. Last week, targets in western Georgia were shelled with “Tochka-U” missiles launched from Abkhazia. The launches were recorded by the American global launch trekking system. Abkhazian authorities declared that they were the ones who launched the ballistic missiles. Now, our [authorities] can also declare that it is the Ossetians (not the 58 th Army) that is striking Tbilisi, supposedly in retribution for Tskhinvali. Such attacks, undoubtedly will cause mass panic in Tbilisi and it might become possible to depose Saakashvili regime.
The seize fire in Georgia will be very unstable, until a foreign peacekeeping contingent enters Georgia.
I think an article which says " By ordering the retreat, Georgian leadership preserved the regular army, which by a blitz defeat of the Ossetians raised it’s prestige in the society" not to be impartial.
I 100% agree with you wholeheartedly on the Russia Georgia South Ossetia situation - there is no simple solution to all of this - the US and NATO said to hell with international law in Kosovo, Croatia/Krajina and Bosnia - and now poor little Georgia is paying the price.
[It is said that during a press briefing when a journalist asked Bush about US violations of international law in attacking Iraq, Bush joked to the reporter:
"What's that? International law? Let me go call my lawyer!"]
I am also appalled to see those traitorous puppets of Washington (Olmert, Livni and Barak) in Israel being involved in training and arming Saakashvili's murderous troops working in concert with the United States Bush administration.
The similarity with Bill Clinton in 1994 hiring Carl Vuono's Military Professional Resources Incorporated (MPRI) to train Tudjman's genocidal neo-Ustasha Nazi troops in their horrific ethnic-cleansing attack on Krajina on August 4,1995 is quite eerily uncanny.
I suppose the combined attraction of cheap Caspian oil (transiting via Georgia) coupled with a desire to get back at Putin for supplying advanced weaponry to Israel's #1 enemy(Islamofascist Iran - who also backed the genocidal KLA, Izetbegovic & Tudjman) was too much for Olmert's regime to resist.
And of course, being puppets, Olmert, Livni & Barak do precisely what Washington tells them to do (arm and train Georgia to encircle, weaken & destabilize the Russian Federation in an effort to break it up like they did with Yugoslavia).
Too bad the Washington-backed military gamble against Moscow backfired terribly not just for Bush, but for both Georgia and Israel.
Russia is not a defenseless Yugoslavia/Serbia that accepts being picked on and pushed around by a bullying US or NATO.
Russia has its own legitimate geostrategic interests and is more than willing and capable of fighting to protect them.
Of course, having several thousand nuclear intercontinental ballistic missiles doesn't hurt either if you are goint to challenge the military might of the US and NATO.
PS: I genuinely admire how you don't get discouraged and still keep writing in the cause of truth and justice even if your letters are not always published by the mainstream press.
Russia has gone out of its way to limit this - not bombing the pipeline, not occupying the capital & not freeing Ajaria (another enclave in the south of the country). All of these would have been easy to do.
You should email in a letter or 2 to your own papers. Something in your own catchment area because they like local stuff: start of with a reference to an article in the paper "I read with interest your article about how much fun it would be seeing American soldiers charging Russian machine gun posts (18th august) & .....": keep it down to a couple of paragraphs (lift from mine if you want); provide your address & phine no so they can check yiu are yiu (they probably won't but they want to able to) & there is a decent chance it will be published if it is within their confort zone of acceptable dissent.