Friday, August 08, 2008

So it's 08/08/08- the same day that the opening ceremonies for the summer Olympics are supposed to take place in Beijing, Russian forces are said to be invading Georgia. Admittedly, I don't know much about the politics in Georgia, but apparently there's a region within Georgia called South Ossetia which has been trying to assert its independence for years, seeking to either become an independent nation or to reunify with neighboring North Ossetia, a move which would place the region under Russian control. Ossetians apparently have a population which is largely descended from a tribe called the Alans, and they share a common language with their North Ossetian neighbors. In 2006 there was apparently some kind of election in which South Ossetians voted (apparently overwhelmingly) for independence. This move was ignored by the Georgian leadership in Tblisi.
Anyhoo, there have been some stories about Russian troops amassing along the border and doing military exercises over the last few months. In addition, the United States has troops stationed in Georgia who have been working on training Georgian troops for quite a while. Apparently the Russians have rolled tanks into South Ossetia as part of some kind of territorial grab, and the Georgians are claiming that they've already shot down two Russian planes (flying over Georgian territory).
I'm not sure how I feel about the whole Russian invasion thing. I saw the Georgian president on TV this morning bemoaning the fact that the Russians were invading his peaceful little country, but that was before I knew that the people in the area being invaded had expressed a desire to gain independence or to become a part of Russia.
I'm pretty sure of one thing, though- it would probably be a good thing if we didn't have so much of our military tied up in Iraq at the moment. If the Russians go ahead and just roll forward to take over all of Georgia (an act which I think would constitute a war of aggression by almost anyone's standards), it would probably be a good thing if we had some troops available to help defend Georgia (since they're supposed to be one of our allies and we're supposed to be helping to support their burgeoning democracy). Of course, Russia still has lots and lots of nukes, so you kind of always have to keep that in mind when you start messing with them (but c'mon, George- you wanted to invade a country that threatens the world with weapons of mass destruction. They should be much easier to find when we roll into Russia. In fact, the Russians might end up being eager to show them to us...).
But seriously- defending our allies and helping to thwart invasions of friendly democratic nations is much more in keeping with what I think we should be doing with our military forces (as opposed to occupying foreign countries that we invaded on the basis of false or fabricated intelligence).
Anyhoo, 8/08/08 is shaping up to be an interesting day.

Maybe more later.

23 comments:

branelala said...

My dear friend,
this is directly related to international low. US backed up independent Kosovo without UN resolution just few months ago. US invaded Iraq without UN resolution. Basically, US killed international low. Russia is doing the same thing now but they have an excuse; it's not us who killed it, it's been already dead.

NTT said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
NTT said...

Ok. That was weird. Anyway, here's my original comment: I think the US needs to reconsider its position with the support of Georgia. If the US really, really supports democratic rule, then the people of South Ossetia should be allowed to pursue independence away from Georgia even if it means allowing it to become a part of Russia or an independent state allied with Russia. The US has supported Kurdish independence, Kosovo, freedom for Tibet and the independence of Taiwan. Our position is weak.

Steanso said...

I guess I probably agree that we should support independence for South Ossettia (assuming that there really is a true majority of the people who want independence from Georgia and not just some vocal minority). If the Russians overstep their bounds and try to occupy Georgia as a whole, however, I think we should lend support to help Georgia defend itself. I'm sure that Condoleeza Rice is taking notes on this...

NTT said...

Well, basically it's just international superpowers fighting over natural resources being waged by proxy nations. Georgia has desperately been trying to join NATO and alarming the Putin oligarchy. But what do I know. I'm sure Condoleeza knows exactly what to do with all those diplomatic successes we've had in the Balkans, Pakistan and Sudan.

Anonymous said...

Russia does not intend to occupy the whole Georgia. Georgia and Russia have been friends for centuries (we even have the same religion)until this little king Saakashvili started playing his games.The majority of population in South Ossetia are Russian citizens, so when Georgians started shooting and bombing South Ossetia 4 days ago (I know nobody talk s about that but thousands of children had to be evacuated from South Ossetia 3 days ago because of the shotings from Georgian side) and 12 peacemakers were killed , there was nothing else to do for Russian troops but move on. They entered South Ossetia to protect their own citizen from being killed. I heard Saakashvili`s whining: he is such a liar. Before Russian troops moved to Ossetia: 1300 Russian citizens were shooted by Georgians already.

tatyana said...

I only wanted to remind to everyone that South Ossetia become a part of Georgia only because Josef Stalin (who was originally Georgian)decided so. It was his little gift to his homeland. The same was done with Abkhazia. As long as Stalin was a head of Soviet Union ethnic minorities that all of a sudden happen to live in Georgia were discriminated by Georgians. Many people were deported and came back home only after Stalin's death. So, trust me, they really want to be independent. There is no love lost between them and Georgians

Anonymous said...

International law huh...I'm sure it has nothing to do with his KGB state of mind or anything else? Right?

Steanso said...

I don't think Putin's "KGB state of mind" has any more bearing on this than George H. Bush's "CIA state of mind" effected his decision to put us into the first Iraq war. His KGB experience may inform his decision making, but it doesn't necessarily make him wrong.

I think that I find the Russian's argument in this thing to be fairly defensible and understandable. Maybe they should have tried harder to use diplomacy instead of the military, but the U.S. is often guilty of doing the same thing.

It always makes other countries nervous when a powerful nation inserts itself into the internal politics of a different country, but there CAN be times when such action is justified. With the South Ossetians repeatedly assering a desire for independence, the Russians MAY have been justified here if they thought that the safety and security of the South Ossetians was at stake.

There needs to be a solution that involves more diplomacy and less shooting at people, though. I know that diplomacy can be frustratingly slow, but it's worth it in order to save lives. I don't mean to sound patronizing or condescending (or to oversimplify the current problems), but the Georgians and Russians are going to be neighbors forever, so they NEED to learn to work out their differences without gunfire.

Anonymous said...

Maybe russians should have tried harder to use diplomacy instead of the military...

You should tell it the georgian president who apparently got tired of diplomacy and decided to fight.

I know that diplomacy can be frustratingly slow, but it's worth it in order to save lives.

When a thousand of russian citizens has already been killed during just one night, there is no time to use diplomacy - it is necessary to defend them as quickly as possible. So, in this case diplomacy would not save lives.

Steanso said...

Diplomacy can always save lives, and without casting blame on either side for starting this whole mess (and I think there's probably plenty of blame on both sides to go around), someone always needs to be willing to be the more courageous nation and take the first step in putting their guns down. The world is now watching and will not tolerate naked aggression by the Georgians against the South Assetians, so now we need to look to the future and END THE VIOLENCE before it gets any more out of control.

An unwillingness to peacefully negotiate makes the unwilling party the aggressor- and given the current Russian troop movements into deeper parts of Georgia, right now the aggressor is starting to look an awful lot like the Russians.

Anonymous said...

Well, Russia has accomplished it's mission of evicting georgian forces from South Assetia (at least from the area of SA that Russia is responsible for according to it's peacekeeping duty) and does not intend to invade Georgia. Looks like our government does not (and did not) lose control.

given the current Russian troop movements into deeper parts of Georgia, right now the aggressor is starting to look an awful lot like the Russians

It is very easy to be misled by mass media if you rely on one source only. Please, take care to read russian news websites, http://en.rian.ru/ for example. Russian military denies accusations of attacking georgians in their territory. (South Assetia is disputed territory, not georgian, because overwhelming majority of South Assetians wants independance.)

Anonymous said...

About world's toleration of georgian aggression. As far as I know, no country fully supported russian representative in Security Council. The best variant is to blame both sides for violence, the most common - to condemn Russia for "aggression". As if every country is aware of US reaction which is so pro-georgian :(
US President was talking about fledgling democracy in Georgia... Is it democratic to attack civilians? Or deprive his own people of information? (Russian TV and russian sector of Internet are not available in Georgia. America fights in Iraq but Americans can visit extremists' websites, right?) Or solve territorial dispute by force? No, no and no again. Doesn't it mean that Georgia is not democratic and USA support an aggressive and nondemocratic thug named Mikheil Saakashvili?

Steanso said...

First off, I do read and watch other news sources besides CNN. Sometimes I link to these other sources, and sometimes I don't. As far as sticking to Russian sources, I have no problem checking them out, but I'm just as wary of pro-Russian propaganda in these sources as you are of pro-Georgian propaganda in Georgian news sources in the West.

And, yes, most of the world, I believe sees Russia as the aggressor in this matter. Right or wrong, Georgian violence has been directed toward separatists within their own country (South Assetia is still seen by the entire world- except Russia- as a part of Georgia, not Russia). So any violence perpetrated against separatists by the Georgian military is considered by everyone except Russia as a matter of internal politics within a sovereign nation. When Russia invades in order to protect "its people", it is seen by the rest of the world as invading a foreign nation in order to intervene on behalf of a separatist group.

And yes, Russia now seems to have slowed or stopped its invasion, but not before being threatened with sanctions by much of the industrialized world. I certainly don't think that the actions carried out by Russia were limited to a "peacekeeping role".

NTT said...

Holy Jeez. Looks like the Russian apologists are out in force.

So, your proof of Russian restraint is a point by point regurgitation of the Russian military representative and yet you criticize that all facts of the Georgian position are compromised by Western "mass media". Terrific.

How about this, why did the Russians need to bomb areas beyond South Ossetia, especially when the Georgian troops pulled out of the conflicted area?

"(South Assetia is disputed territory, not georgian, because overwhelming majority of South Assetians wants independance.)"

If this is your reasoning then why is Russia so adamant against Kosovo's independence? The vast majority of Kosovans have always demanded independence.

This is not to say that many do not wish South Ossetians their liberty; however, the bare aggression by Russian forces is ludicrous to defend. It's been clear since Putin is in office that Russian wants to establish a hegemony that extends all the way through the Artic circle, to the edges of Asia and the Balkans. Let's get real here.

Anonymous said...

OK, I've been a little too tough in my previous post, but it is just my personal opinion. Sorry, if I've insulted your feelings.

Georgian violence has been directed toward separatists within their own country (South Assetia is still seen by the entire world- except Russia- as a part of Georgia, not Russia).

It is a double-standard policy. Kosovo declared it's independence and many countries accepted it. Why can't South Assetia do the same?

Russian officials DIDNOT say that South Assetia is a part of Russia. South Assetians asked Russia to annex their territory (if I'm not wrong with the term - to let SA be a part of Russia), but the russian government refused to do so. Why - I don't know, may be there was fear that it will destabilize situation (remember what happened in Kosovo after it's declaration). Russia decided to put peacekeepers into this area to maintain peace (it was a legal agreement with Georgia, signed in 1992), because so many russian citizens live there. For several times my country informed Georgian side that it will protect both it's peacekeepers and it's citizens, and it did so. Where is the aggression?

I did not hear of any sanctions by much of the industrialized world? Different statements of different politician? Well, it happens all the time :)

Anonymous said...

To ntt.
Apologist? Yes, I am trying to be, why not?

So, your proof of Russian restraint is a point by point regurgitation of the Russian military representative

Could you use a little bit more clear language?

About Western mass media. Many times it showed georgian GRADs' fire as if it was russian. Terrific, indeed.

How about this, why did the Russians need to bomb areas beyond South Ossetia, especially when the Georgian troops pulled out of the conflicted area?
Do not know anything about it. Is this info provided by Georgia? If yes, then there is no reason to believe it. Saakashvili says many things which are false.

It's been clear since Putin is in office that Russian wants to establish a hegemony that extends all the way through the Artic circle, to the edges of Asia and the Balkans. Let's get real here.
I don't know what your reality is, but my opinion is this: it was a defensive military operation, an appropriate reaction with one goal - to prevent killings of russian people, both civilians and soldiers.

Steanso said...

Well, our media channels here in the U.S. showed Russian troops moving into, taking over, and driving citizens and the Georgian military out of uncontested parts of Georgia along two distinct fronts, including action outside of South Ossettia (including the city of Gori).
If Russia wants to maintain that this was a defensive military action meant to defend people in South Ossettia whom the Russians feel loyalty toward, then that's okay! I really am okay with peacekeeping actions if there's violence or a legitimate threat of violence against any ethnic or cultural group (including the South Ossetians). We're happy to have the Russians step up in a peacekeeping role, but we have to be certain that the peacekeeping goal is the true objective and not just a cover for some other purpose.
A peacekeeping role cannot include plans to topple foreign governemnets or to remove foreign leaders from power just because Russia doesn't agree with their politics (I know this might sound hypocritical coming from an American, but I have been strongly against George Bush and the Iraq War even since before it began).
I'm glad that a cease fire seems to be in effect, and that the parties are back to something that looks like peaceful negotiations.
I like being allies with both the Russians and the Georgians.
We're not just singling out the Russians because we don't like them- we're trying to be objective and fair and to make sure that both sides comply with international law. I think that the South Ossetians probably deserve a chance to assert their independence, but to be honest, that's mostly an internal matter to be decided by the people of Georgia (unless the Georgian military begins to hurt South Ossetians- at which point the world community has an obligation to step in).
If Russia wants South Ossetia to be a part of Russia so badly, then maybe the Russians can help broker a diplomatic solution to the problem (maybe the Russians have something that they could trade or bargain with in order for Georgia to take this South Ossetian claim of independence more seriously? I'm just saying there has to be another way to straighten out this South Ossetian independence issue))

NTT said...

To ntt.
Could you use a little bit more clear language?

Uhh, that was perfectly clear. I don't know what version of English grammar you are using but please point out to me where clarity is needed because you can't.

About Western mass media. Many times it showed georgian GRADs' fire as if it was russian. Terrific, indeed.

Our point is that we both cite sources the other views as biased. So, frankly, unless you have other considerable proof, both sides "appeal to authority" basically is moot to the other. I'm just merely acknowledging that issue, something you can't seem to comprehend. I didn't say that western sources are better. I'm making the point that your sources is no better. Big difference.

I don't know what your reality is, but my opinion is this: it was a defensive military operation, an appropriate reaction with one goal - to prevent killings of russian people, both civilians and soldiers.

Funny, I thought there were separatists attacking Georgians too, or is that a figment of everyone's imagination? If the South Ossetians want independence, which if you haven't seen my comments, I actually support, then they also need to show that Georgian sovereignty isn't going to be jeopardized.

Let me ask you a question, do you support Chechen independence too?

Steanso said...

Well, NTT, on the language issue, we may be dealing with an actual language barrier, and since I don't know a bit of Russian, I think we should probably let language problems slide (Anonymous may not have perfect English, but it's better than our Russian, so let's cut him some slack). And before we get everyone too upset about all of this, let me say that I think it's pretty cool to even have a civilized conversation on the topic. But, anyway, yeah, I have to agree that when you hear that the Georgians are dealing with "armed separatists" it sort of implies that these South Ossetians have guns and that they're up to no good with them. These people probably weren't completely harmless civilians that the Georgians had been dealing with. They may not be trained terrorists or guerrillas, but the Georgians had reported that they had come under attack from separatists, and that they were taking actions to make sure such things didn't happen again.

Anonymous said...

If Russia wants South Ossetia to be a part of Russia so badly
It is South Ossetia who wants to be a part of Russia. Russia have not satisfied this request even after Kosovo precedent. So, the russian position in this matter has been consistent.

These people probably weren't completely harmless civilians. … the Georgians had reported that they had come under attack from separatists, and that they were taking actions to make sure such things didn't happen again.
When I was talking about civilians I meant real civilians without guns and intention to obtain them. May be there was separatists’ fire at the Georgians but that does not mean that the Georgians had to erase the whole town and few villages with bombing and GRAD’s fire which is not precise. Their actions were disproportionate.

And of course, it is a pure coincidence that Georgia had so much military force at the border, right?

To NTT
I do not fully understand the word “regurgitation”. Are you talking about withdrawal?

I did not say that ALL facts of the Georgian position are compromised by Western "mass media". The Georgian position compromises itself. And some western tv-channels showed only the Georgian position in the beginning of the open conflict.

Now about the “bombing areas beyond South Ossetia, especially when the Georgian troops pulled out of the conflicted area”. When another side is shelling you, you need to destroy it’s artillery otherwise you’re a target in a shooting-range.

I didn't say that western sources are better. I'm making the point that your sources is no better. Big difference.
Well, of course russian tv will be more likely to defend russian position. But this position is justified. And at least russian tv relayed statements from all sides of the conflict right from the beginning.

do you support Chechen independence too?
At that time I did not care very much, and now don’t think about it because it looks quite calm there.

Anonymous said...

By the way, I thank both of you for this talk – it is interesting and useful for me in the language sense :)

Steanso said...

No problem! I enjoy discussing these things, and it's nice to get an international viewpoint on current events this way. Good to see that even if we don't all agree 100%, we can still have a good discussion!