August 26, 2008

The Truth About Russia in Georgia

I Am Georgia Stop Russia.jpg

TBILISI, GEORGIA – Virtually everyone believes Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili foolishly provoked a Russian invasion on August 7, 2008, when he sent troops into the breakaway district of South Ossetia. “The warfare began Aug. 7 when Georgia launched a barrage targeting South Ossetia,” the Associated Press reported over the weekend in typical fashion.

Virtually everyone is wrong. Georgia didn't start it on August 7, nor on any other date. The South Ossetian militia started it on August 6 when its fighters fired on Georgian peacekeepers and Georgian villages with weapons banned by the agreement hammered out between the two sides in 1994. At the same time, the Russian military sent its invasion force bearing down on Georgia from the north side of the Caucasus Mountains on the Russian side of the border through the Roki tunnel and into Georgia. This happened before Saakashvili sent additional troops to South Ossetia and allegedly started the war.

Regional expert, German native, and former European Commission official Patrick Worms was recently hired by the Georgian government as a media advisor, and he explained to me exactly what happened when I met him in downtown Tbilisi. You should always be careful with the version of events told by someone on government payroll even when the government is as friendly and democratic as Georgia's. I was lucky, though, that another regional expert, author and academic Thomas Goltz, was present during Worms' briefing to me and signed off on it as completely accurate aside from one tiny quibble.

Goltz has been writing about the Caucasus region for almost 20 years, and he isn't on Georgian government payroll. He earns his living from the University of Montana and from the sales of his books Azerbaijan Diary, Georgia Diary and Chechnya Diary. Goltz experienced these three Caucasus republics at their absolute worst, and he knows the players and the events better than just about anyone. Every journalist in Tbilisi seeks him out as the old hand who knows more than the rest of us put together, and he wanted to hear Patrick Worms' spiel to reporters in part to ensure its accuracy.

“You,” Worms said to Goltz just before he started to flesh out the real story to me, “are going to be bored because I'm going to give some back story that you know better than I do.”

“Go,” Goltz said. “Go.”

The back story began at least as early as the time of the Soviet Union. I turned on my digital voice recorder so I wouldn't miss anything that was said.

Patrick Worms Map Tbilisi.jpg
Patrick Worms

“A key tool that the Soviet Union used to keep its empire together,” Worms said to me, “was pitting ethnic groups against one another. They did this extremely skillfully in the sense that they never generated ethnic wars within their own territory. But when the Soviet Union collapsed it became an essential Russian policy to weaken the states on its periphery by activating the ethnic fuses they planted.

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A poster on a wall in Tbilisi, Georgia

“They tried that in a number of countries. They tried it in the Baltic states, but the fuses were defused. Nothing much happened. They tried it in Ukraine. It has not happened yet, but it's getting hotter. They tried it in Moldova. There it worked, and now we have Transnitria. They tried it in Armenia and Azerbaijan and it went beyond their wildest dreams and we ended up with a massive, massive war. And they tried it in two territories in Georgia, which I'll talk about in a minute. They didn't try it in Central Asia because basically all the presidents of the newly independent countries were the former heads of the communist parties and they said we're still following your line, Kremlin, we haven't changed very much.

Nagorno-Karabakh Map2.JPG

He's right about the massive war between Armenia and Azerbaijan, though few outside the region know much about it. Armenians and Azeris very thoroughly transferred Azeris and Armenians “back” to their respective mother countries after the Soviet Union collapsed through pogroms, massacres, and ethnic-cleansing. Hundreds of thousands of refugees fled savage communal warfare in terror. The Armenian military still occupies the ethnic-Armenian Nagorno-Karabakh region in southwestern Azerbaijan. It's another so-called “frozen conflict” in the Caucasus region waiting to thaw. Moscow takes the Armenian side and could blow up Nagorno-Karabakh, and subsequently all of Azerbaijan, at any time. After hearing the strident Azeri point of view on the conflict for a week before I arrived in Georgia, I'd say that particular ethnic-nationalist fuse is about one millimeter in length.

“Now the story starts really in 1992 when this fuse was lit in Georgia,” Worms said. “Now, there's two territories. There's Abkhazia which has clearly defined administrative borders, and there's South Ossetia that doesn't. Before the troubles started, Abkhazia was an extremely ethnically mixed area: about 60 percent Georgian, 20 percent Abkhaz, and 20 percent assorted others – Greeks, Estonians, Armenians, Jews, what have you. In Ossetia it was a completely integrated and completely mixed Ossetian-Georgian population. The Ossetians and the Georgians have never been apart in the sense that they were living in their own little villages and doing their own little things. There has been inter-marriage and a sense of common understanding going back to distant history. The Georgians will tell you about King Tamar – that's a woman, but they called her a king – and she was married to an Ossetian. So the fuse was lit and two wars start, one in Abkhazia and one in South Ossetia.”

Georgia Map.jpg
Georgia

South Ossetia is inside Georgia, while North Ossetia is inside Russia.

“The fuse was not just lit in Moscow,” he said. “It was also lit in Tbilisi. There was a guy in charge here, Zviad Gamsakhurdia, a little bit like [Serbian Nationalist war criminal in Bosnia Radovan] Karadzic. He was a poet. He was an intellectual. But he was one of these guys who veered off into ethnic exclusivism. He made stupid declarations like Georgia is only for the Georgians. If you're running a multi-ethnic country, that is really not a clever thing to say. The central control of the state was extremely weak. The Russians were trying to make things worse. There was a civil war between Georgians and Tbilisi. But the key thing is that here there were militias, Georgian militias, and some of them pretty nasty.”

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Thomas Goltz

Thomas Goltz then interjected his only critique of Patrick Worms' explanation of events that led to this war. “It started in 1991,” he said, “but it went into 1992 and 1993, as well.” Then he turned to me. “This guy, [Zviad] Gamsakhurdia, was driven from power from across the street. They bombed this place.” He meant the Marriott Hotel. We stood in the lobby where Worms had set up his media relations operation. “There's a horrible picture in my Georgia book of this facade.”

“Of this building?” I said.

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Marriot Hotel (right), Tbilisi, Georgia

“Yeah,” Goltz said. “That was December 1991. He fled in December 1991.”

“Where did he go?” I said.

“To Chechnya,” Goltz said. “Of course. He led the government in exile until he came back in 1993 then died obscurely in the mountains, of suicide some people say, others say cancer. Then he was buried in Grozny.” He turned then again to Patrick Worms. “1991,” he said. “Not 1992.”

“1991,” Worms said. “Okay.”

So aside from that quibble, everything else Worms said to me was vouched for as accurate by the man who literally wrote the book on this conflict from the point of view of both academic and witness.

“So in 1991,” Worms said, “things here explode. And basically it gets pretty nasty. Thomas can tell you what happened. Read his book, it's worth it. And by the time the dust settles, there are between 20,000 and 30,000 dead. Many atrocities committed by both sides, but mostly – at least that's what the Georgians say – by the Abkhaz. And the end result is everybody gets kicked out. Everybody who is not Abkhaz or Russian gets kicked out. That's about 400,000 people. 250,000 of those still live as Internally Displaced Persons within Georgia. As for the rest: the Greeks have gone back to Greece, the Armenians to Armenia, some Abkhaz to Turkey, etc.

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Abkhazia (upper left)

“When it's over,” he said, “you've got two bits of Abkhazia which are not ethnic Abkhazia. You've got Gali district which is filled with ethnic Georgians. And you've got the Kodori Gorge which is filled with another bunch of Georgians. So there the end result was a classic case of ethnic-cleansing, but the world didn't pay much attention because it was happening at the same time as the Yugoslav wars. Ossetia was different. Ossetia also had a war that started about the same time, and it was also pretty nasty, but it never quite succeeded in generating a consolidated bit of territory that Ossetians could keep their own. When the dust settled there, you ended up with a patchwork of Georgian and Ossetian villages. Before the war, Ossetians and Georgians lived together in the same villages. After the war they lived in separate villages. But there were still contacts. People were talking, people were trading. It wasn't quite as nasty as it was in Abkhazia.

South Ossetia Map.JPG

“Now fast forward to the Rose Revolution,” he said.

The Rose Revolution was a popular bloodless revolution that brought Georgia's current president Mikheil Saakashvili to power and replaced the old man of Georgian politics Eduard Shevardnadze who basically ran the country Soviet-style.

“The first thing that Misha [Mikheil Saakashvili] did was try to poke his finger in [Russian President Vladimir] Putin's eyes as many times as possible,” Worms said, “most notably by wanting to join NATO. The West, in my view, mishandled this situation. America gave the wrong signals. So did Europe.”

“Can you elaborate on that a bit?” I said.

“I will,” he said. “But basically the encouragement was given despite stronger and stronger Russian signals that a Georgian accession to NATO would not be tolerated. Fast forward to 2008, to this year, to the meeting of NATO heads of state that took place in Bucharest, Romania, where Georgia was promised eventual membership of the organization but was refused what it really wanted, which was the so-called Membership Action Plan. The Membership Action Plan is the bureaucratic tool NATO uses to prepare countries for membership. And this despite the fact that military experts will tell you that the Georgian Army, which had been reformed root and branch with American support, was now in better shape and more able to meet NATO aspirations than the armies of Albania and Macedonia which got offered membership at the same meeting.

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Tbilisi, Georgia

“Just a little bit of back story again, in July of 2007 Russia withdrew from the Conventional Forces Treaty in Europe. This is a Soviet era treaty that dictates where NATO and the Warsaw Pact can keep their conventional armor around their territories. Russia started moving a lot of materiel south. After Bucharest, provocations started. Russian provocations started, and they were mostly in Abkhazia.

“One provocation was to use the Russian media to launch shrill accusations that the Georgian army was in Kodori preparing for an invasion of Abkhazia. Now if you go up there – I took a bunch of journalists up there a few times – when you get to the actual checkpoint you have a wall of crumbling rock, a wooden bridge, another wall of crumbling rock, a raging torrent, and a steep mountainside filled with woods. It's not possible to invade out or invade in unless you've got air support. Which is why the Abkhaz were never able to kick these Georgians out. They just kept that bit of territory.”

He paused and looked over at Thomas Goltz as though he was bracing for a critique.

“I'm just doing what I've done already,” he said, “but this time I'm getting advice from an expert on how I'm doing.”

Thomas Goltz silently nodded.

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Tbilisi, Georgia

“Kodori provocations,” Worms continued, “and other provocations. First the Russians had a peacekeeping base under a 1994 agreement that allowed them to keep the peace in both Abkhazia and South Ossetia. They added paratroopers, crack paratroopers, with modern weaponry there. That doesn't sound a lot like peacekeeping. A further provocation: they start shooting unmanned Georgian aircraft drones out the sky. One of them was caught on camera by the drone as it was about to be destroyed. The United Nations confirmed that it was a Russian plane that did this. It probably took off from an airbase that the Russians were supposed to have vacated a few years ago, but they never let the OSCE [Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe] in to check.

“The next provocation: On April 16 Putin signs a presidential decree recognizing the documents of Abkhazians and South Ossetians in Russia and vice versa. This effectively integrates these two territories into Russia's legal space. The Georgians were furious. So you have all these provocations mounting and mounting and mounting. Meanwhile, as of July, various air corps start moving from the rest of Russia to get closer to the Caucasus. These are obscure details, but they are available.

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A poster on a wall in Tbilisi, Georgia

“Starting in mid July the Russians launched the biggest military exercise in the North Caucasus that they've held since the Chechnya war. That exercise never stopped. It just turned into a war. They had all their elite troops there, all their armor there, all their stuff there. Everyone still foolishly thought the action was going to be in Abkhazia or in Chechnya, which is still not as peaceful as they'd like it to be.

“The Georgians had their crack troops in Iraq. So what was left at their central base in Gori? Not very much. Just Soviet era equipment and not their best troops. They didn't place troops on the border with Abkhazia because they didn't want to provoke the Abkhaz. They were expecting an attempt on Kodori, but the gorge is in such a way that unless they're going to use massive air support – which the Abkhaz don't have – it's impossible to take that place. Otherwise they would have done it already.

“So fast forward to early August. You have a town, Tskhinvali, which is Ossetian, and a bunch of Georgian villages surrounding it in a crescent shape. There are peacekeepers there. Both Russian peacekeepers and Georgian peacekeepers under a 1994 accord. The Ossetians were dug in in the town, and the Georgians were in the forests and the fields between the town and the villages. The Ossetians start provoking and provoking and provoking by shelling Georgian positions and Georgian villages around there. And it's a classic tit for tat thing. You shell, I shell back. The Georgians offered repeated ceasefires, which the Ossetians broke.

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A poster on a wall in Tbilisi, Georgia

“On August 3, the head of the local administration says he's evacuating his civilians. You also need to know one thing: you may be wondering what these areas live off, especially in Ossetia, there's no industry there. Georgia is poor, but Ossetia is poorer. It's basically a smuggler's paradise. There was a sting operation that netted three kilograms of highly enriched uranium. There are fake hundred dollar bills to the tune of at least 50 million dollars that have been printed. [South Ossetian “President” Eduard] Kokoity himself is a former wrestler and a former bodyguard who was promoted to the presidency by powerful Ossetian families as their puppet. What does that mean in practice? It means that if you are a young man, you have no choice. You can either live in absolute misery, or you can take the government's dime and join the militia. It happened in both territories.

“On top of that, for the last four years the Russians have been dishing out passports to anyone who asks in those areas. All you have to do is present your Ossetian or Abkhaz papers and a photo and you get a Russian passport on the spot. If you live in Moscow and try to get a Russian passport, you have the normal procedure to follow, and it takes years. So suddenly you have a lot of Ossetian militiamen and Abkhaz militiamen with Russian passports in effect paid by Russian subsidies.

Night Shot Tbilisi 1.jpg
Tbilisi, Georgia

“So back to the 3rd of August. Kokoity announces women and children should leave. As it later turned out, he made all the civilians leave who were not fighting or did not have fighting capabilities. On the same day, irregulars – Ingush, Chechen, Ossetians, and Cossacks – start coming in and spreading out into the countryside but don't do anything. They just sit and wait. On the 6th of August the shelling intensifies from Ossetian positions. And for the first time since the war finished in 1992, they are using 120mm guns.”

“Can I stop you for a second?” I said. I was still under the impression that the war began on August 7 and that Georgian President Saakashvili started it when he sent troops into South Ossetia's capital Tskhinvali. What was all this about the Ossetian violence on August 6 and before?

He raised his hand as if to say stop.

“That was the formal start of the war,” he said. “Because of the peace agreement they had, nobody was allowed to have guns bigger than 80mm. Okay, so that's the formal start of the war. It wasn't the attack on Tskhinvali. Now stop me.”

“Okay,” I said. “All the reports I've read say Saakashvili started the war.”

“I'm not yet on the 7th,” he said. “I'm on the 6th.”

“Okay,” I said. He had given this explanation to reporters before, and he knew exactly what I was thinking.

“Saakashvili is accused of starting this war on the 7th,” he said.

“Right,” I said. “But that sounds like complete bs to me if what you say is true.”

Thomas Goltz nodded.

*

I later met wounded Georgian soldiers in a Tbilisi hospital who confirmed what Patrick Worms had told me about what happened when the war actually started. I felt apprehensive about meeting wounded soldiers. Would they really want to talk to someone in the media or would they rather spend their time healing in peace?

My translator spoke to some of the doctors in the hospital who directed us to Georgian soldiers and a civilian who were wounded in South Ossetia and felt okay enough to speak to a foreign reporter.

Kaha Bragadze.jpg
Kaha Bragadze

“Every day and every hour the Russian side lied,” Georgian soldier Kaha Bragadze said. “It must be stopped. If not today, then maybe tomorrow. My troops were in our village, Avnevi. On the 6th of August they blew up our troops' four-wheel-drives, our pickups. They blew them up. Also in this village – it was August 5th or 6th, I can't remember – they started bombing us with shells. Two soldiers died that day, our peacekeepers. The Ossetians had a good position on the hill. They could see all our positions and our villages, and they started bombing. They went to the top of the hill, bombed us, then went down. We couldn't see who was shooting at us.”

Kaha Bragadze Leg.jpg
Kaha Bragadze's leg wounded by shrapnel from a Russian air strike

“Which day was this?” I said. “The 5th or the 6th?”

“I don't remember,” he said. “But it started that day from that place when two Georgians were killed.”

“Were they just bombing you the peacekeepers,” I said, “or also civilians and villages?”

“Before they started bombing us they took all the civilians out of their villages,” he said. “Then they started damaging our villages – houses, a gas pipe, roads, yards. They killed our animals. They evacuated their villages, then bombed our villages.”

Another Georgian soldier, Giorgi Khosiashvili, concurred

Giorgi Khosiashvili.jpg
Giorgi Khosiashvili

“I was a peace keeper as well,” he said, “but in another village. I was fired upon on August 6th. On the 5th of August they started shooting. They blew up our peacekeeping trucks. They put a bomb on the road and when they were driving they were blown up. They also mined the roads used by civilians. On the 6th of August they started bombing Avnevi. And at this time they took the civilians out of Tskhinvali and sent them to North Ossetia [inside Russia].”

“I saw this on TV,” said Alex, my translator. “They took the civilians, kids, women, and put them on the bus and sent them to North Ossetia.”

A civilian man, Koba Mindiashvili, shared the hospital room with the Georgian soldiers. He, too, was in South Ossetia where he lived outside Tskhinvali.

Koba Mindiashvili.jpg
Koba Mindiashvili

“When they started bombing my village,” he said, “I was running away and the soldiers wounded me. They robbed me and shot me in the leg with a Kalashnikov. I don't know if it was Russians or Ossetians. They took my car, took my gold chain, and shot me.”

“They didn't care if it was a house or a military camp,” Giorgi Khosiashvili said. “They bombed everything.”

“You actually saw this for yourself?” I said.

“Yes,” he said. “I saw it. It was the Russian military airplanes. If they knew it was a Georgian village, they bombed all the houses. Many civilians were killed from this bombing.”

“It was Russians or Ossetians who did this?” I said.

“It was Russians,” he said. “The Ossetians don't have any jets.”

*

Back at the Marriott Hotel in downtown Tbilisi, Patrick Worms continued fleshing out the rest of the story. “Let me tell you what happened on the 7th,” he said. “On the 6th, while this is going on, the integration minister who was until a few months ago an NGO guy and who believes in soft power things, tried to go there and meet the separatist leadership. The meeting doesn't happen for farcical reasons. The shelling intensifies during the night and there is, again, tit for tat, but this time with weapons coming from the South Ossetian side which are not allowed under the agreement. By that time, the Georgians were seriously worried. All their armor that was near Abkhazia starts moving, but they are tanks, they don't have tank transporters, so they move slowly. They don't make it back in time. On the 7th, this continues. That afternoon, the president announces a unilateral ceasefire, a different one from the previous ones. It means I stop firing first, and if you fire, I still won't fire back. That holds until the next part of the story.

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Peace vigil, Tbilisi, Georgia

“On the evening of the 7th, the Ossetians launch an all-out barrage focused on Georgian villages, not on Georgian positions. Remember, these Georgian villages inside South Ossetia – the Georgians have mostly evacuated those villages, and three of them are completely pulverized. That evening, the 7th, the president gets information that a large Russian column is on the move. Later that evening, somebody sees those vehicles emerging from the Roki tunnel [into Georgia from Russia]. Then a little bit later, somebody else sees them. That's three confirmations. It was time to act.

“What they had in the area was peacekeeping stuff, not stuff for fighting a war. They had to stop that column, and they had to stop it for two reasons. It's a pretty steep valley. If they could stop the Russians there, they would be stuck in the tunnel and they couldn't send the rest of their army through. So they did two things. The first thing they did, and it happened at roughly the same time, they tried to get through [South Ossetian capital] Tskhinvali, and that's when everybody says Saakashvili started the war. It wasn't about taking Ossetia back, it was about fighting their way through that town to get onto that road to slow the Russian advance. The second thing they did, they dropped a team of paratroopers to destroy a bridge. They got wiped out, but first they managed to destroy the bridge and about 15 Russian vehicles.

“The Georgians will tell you that they estimate that these two actions together slowed the Russian advance by 24 to 48 hours. That is what the world considered to be Misha's game. And you know why the world considers it that? Because here in South Ossetia was the head of the peacekeeping troops. He hasn't been in Iraq, he's a peace keeper. What have they been told for the last four years? They lived in a failed state, then there was the Rose Revolution – it wasn't perfect but, damn, now there's electricity, there's jobs, roads have been fixed – and what the Georgians have had drummed into them is that Georgia is now a constitutional state, a state of law and order. And everybody here knows that Ossetia is a gangster's smuggler's paradise. The whole world knows it, but here they know it particularly well. The peacekeepers had a military objective, and the first rule of warfare when you're talking to the media is not to reveal to your enemy what you're going to do. So they weren't going to blather into a microphone and say well, actually, I'm trying to go through Tskhinvali in order to stop the Russians. So what did he say instead? I'm here to restore constitutional order in South Ossetia. And that's it. With that, Georgia lost the propaganda war and the world believes Saakashvili started it. And the rest of the story...you know.”

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Tbilisi, Georgia

“Let me make a couple of comments,” Goltz said.

“That,” Worms said, “to the best of my knowledge, is all true.”

“Let's just start at the ass end,” Goltz said to me. “This is your first time to the lands of the former Soviet Union?”

“Yes,” I said.

The restoration of constitutional order,” he said, “may sound just like a rhetorical flourish with no echo in the American mindset. What it means in the post-Soviet mindset is what Boris Yeltsin was doing in Chechnya. This was the stupidest phrase this guy possibly could have used. That's why people want to lynch him.”

Goltz was referring to the head of the Georgian peacekeeping forces in South Ossetia. He turned then to Patrick Worms. “Your presentation was deliciously comprehensive. Perhaps it was...we'll ask our new friend Michael...too much information out of the gate to absorb.”

“I absorbed it,” I said.

“Okay,” Goltz said.

“Am I making any mistakes?” Worms said to Goltz. “Am I forgetting anything?”

“Well,” Goltz said, “there are some details that I would chip in. Who are the Ossetians and where do they live? This is the question that has been lost in all of the static from this story. This autonomy [South Ossetia] is an autonomous district, as opposed to an autonomous republic, with about 60,000 people max. So, where are the rest of the Ossetians? Guess where they live? Tbilisi. Here. There. Everywhere. There are more Ossetians – take a look around this lobby. You will find Ossetians here. Of those Ossetians who are theoretically citizens of the Republic of Georgia, 60,000 live there and around 40,000 live here.”

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A roadside cross outside Tbilisi, Georgia

“What do they think about all this?” I said.

“They're scared as shit,” Goltz said.

“Are they on the side of those who live in South Ossetia?” I said.

No,” he said. “One of them is Georgia's Minister of Defense. [Correction: Georgia's Minister of Defense is Jewish, not Ossetian.] Georgia is a multi-ethnic republic. And the whole point of the Ossetian ethnic question is this: South Ossetia is part of Georgia.”

“Are reporters receptive to what you're saying?” I said to Worms.

“Everyone is receptive,” he said. “Everyone, regardless of nationality, even those who love Georgia, genuinely thought Saakashvili started it.”

“That's what I thought,” I said. “That's what everyone has been writing.”

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Vladimir Putin's face used for hopscotch, Tbilisi, Georgia

“Yes,” he said. “Absolutely. We've been trying to tell the world about this for months. If you go back and look at the archives you'll see plenty of calls from the Georgian government saying they're really worried. Even some Russian commentators agree that this is exactly what happened. Don't forget, they sent in a lot of irregulars, Chechens, Cossacks, Ossetians, Ingush – basically thugs. Not normal Chechens or Ingush – thugs. Thugs out for a holiday. Many Western camera crews were robbed at gunpoint ten meters from Russian tanks while Russian commanders just stood there smoking their cigarettes while the irregulars...that happened to a Turkish TV crew. They're lucky to still be alive. Some of the Georgians were picked up by the irregulars. If they happened to be female, they got raped. If they happened to be male, they got shot immediately, sometimes tortured. Injured people we have in hospitals who managed to get out have had arms chopped off, eyes gouged out, and their tongues ripped out.”

Putin Sidewalk Georgia Flag Tbilisi.jpg
Vladimir Putin

Russian rules of engagement, so to speak, go down harder than communism. And the Soviet era habits of disinformation are alive and well.

“You also have to remember the propaganda campaign that came out,” he said. “Human Rights Watch is accusing the Russian authorities of being indirectly responsible for the massive ethnic cleansing of Georgians that happened in South Ossetia. The Ossetians are claiming that the Georgians killed 2,000 people in Tskhinvali, but when Human Rights Watch got in there a few days ago and talked to the hospital director, he had received 44 bodies. There was nobody left in that town. Plus it's the oldest law of warfare: have your guns in populated areas, and when the enemy responds, show the world your dead women and children.

“Right,” I said. “That goes on a lot where I usually work, in the Middle East.”

“Yes,” he said. “That's exactly what the Russians were doing.”

Post-script: If these dispatches are worth something to you, please consider a contribution and help make truly independent writing economically viable.

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Posted by Michael J. Totten at August 26, 2008 6:34 AM
Comments

Holy crap...

I've always thought most criticisms of mainstream media to be overwrought, but this... How is it possible that this is the first I've read about any of this?

Posted by: Independent George Author Profile Page at August 26, 2008 7:57 AM

Michael. I have tried to post 3 times, each time the comments just disappear, after a message "waiting for approval or something.." what is the problem?

Posted by: sweden1975 Author Profile Page at August 26, 2008 8:17 AM

There is no doubt that the Russians have played this situation but the Georgians have been stupid and brutal. Here is an eyewitness report from inside South Ossetia during the Georgian bombardment:

http://www.iwpr.net/?p=crs&s=f&o=346117&apc_state=henpcrs

Posted by: Eliot Author Profile Page at August 26, 2008 8:20 AM

With that, Georgia lost the propaganda war and the world believes Saakashvili started it.

The entire carefully-planned propaganda operation might have collapsed if the head of the Georgian peacekeeping forces in South Ossetia had instead publicly appealed to Russia to have its "rogue" elements recalled back to Russian territory, or else they would be subject to attack by Georgian forces. Instead, the "restore constitutional order" line fit the Russian scheme hand-in-glove.

One must then consider the possibility that whoever thought this was the right approach may not be a Georgian fool but a Russian tool.

“A key tool that the Soviet Union used to keep its empire together,” Worms said to me, “was pitting ethnic groups against one another. They did this extremely skillfully in the sense that they never generated ethnic wars within their own territory.

Actually, those things did happen, even after WWII. In one case when the Chechens got particularly violent the revolt was suppressed by a massive Soviet show of force coupled to the threat of ethnic cleansing: Pipe down, or we'll send you all up north to where the polar bears live. The Chechens had been deported en masse during WWII and not allowed to return until Khruschev was in power, so that wasn't an empty threat.

Posted by: Solomon2 Author Profile Page at August 26, 2008 8:33 AM

Michael Totten: Yours is a contribution of real value that sadly won't be seen by enough of the "right people". Hopefully, this will be a short-lived and incorrect assessment. I'd dare the Washington Post or NY Times to print this. However, and a large however, is that these complex, centuries-long-enduring ethnic and religious conflicts smothering the whole landmass of Asia are beyond solving by the United States. We should also forget significant assistance from "allies". At age 77, and having lived in SE Asia, I think each passing year confirms Eisenhower's astute comment that we (USA) should never get into a land war in Asia.
Respectfully submitted.

Posted by: Morningside Author Profile Page at August 26, 2008 8:35 AM

Michael Totten: Yours is a contribution of real value that sadly won't be seen by enough of the "right people". Hopefully, this will be a short-lived and incorrect assessment. I'd dare the Washington Post or NY Times to print this. However, and a large however, is that these complex, centuries-long-enduring ethnic and religious conflicts smothering the whole landmass of Asia are beyond solving by the United States. We should also forget significant assistance from "allies". At age 77, and having lived in SE Asia, I think each passing year confirms Eisenhower's astute comment that we (USA) should never get into a land war in Asia.
Respectfully submitted.

Posted by: Morningside Author Profile Page at August 26, 2008 8:45 AM

the Georgians have been stupid and brutal. Here is an eyewitness -

A Google search reveals that the purported eyewitness, Larisa Sotieva, is a humanitarian worker and self-described "Ossetian" who has previously issued reports neutral or pro-separatist (that is to say, sympathetic to the Kremlin) about Chechen matters.

I won't say that her reports are false. However, they clearly aren't neutral: "it is naïve not to be aware that all truth is relative, especially in a situation between peace and war. "

Posted by: Solomon2 Author Profile Page at August 26, 2008 10:11 AM

Michael,

If I may offer a correction.

One of your maps shows two Abkhazias while one of them is Adjaria (another hot bed, currently pacified), which is around Batumi.

Thank you

Posted by: leo Author Profile Page at August 26, 2008 10:16 AM

You know you risking your life -- becoming a true hero. The KGB might decide not to like you, a lot.

Please, please be careful.

WHAT an important story! The mis-reporting of all others is terrible. M. Yon told Glenn to link (yet again!).

Of course I totally believe you.

The US should be flooding Georgia with hand-held anti-tank weapons. The Russians want to take over S. Ossetia. NATO/ the US must respond.

The Russian Press is no longer free, they will NOT hear of this well.

Posted by: Tom Grey - Liberty Dad Author Profile Page at August 26, 2008 10:25 AM

Here is useful background reading. Georgia's South Ossetia Conflict: Make Haste Slowly. It is a PDF of the ICG's Europe Report No 183, dated 7 June 2007.

Detailed maps of Ossetia are hard to find. Pages 31-33 (PDF) of the report give many place-names, and areas of Georgian and Ossitian control (villages) as of 2007.

The locations of the Roki Tunnel, the bridge at Didi Gupta, and the city of Tskinvali can be seen on the page 31 map (Didi Gupta is just north of the 15 km circle drawn around Tskinvali).

Posted by: AMac Author Profile Page at August 26, 2008 10:40 AM

My guess is that the "Restoring the Constitutional Order" line does not cause much aversion among most Americans, who do not understand any allusions included therein. It was the repeated-on-all-newscasts short movies of nighttime multiple-rocket-launch-systems, with use attributed to the Georgian Army as it attacked Tshkinvali, which convinced newsviewers that the Georgians are the aggressors. Visuals matter more than text.

Posted by: del Author Profile Page at August 26, 2008 10:42 AM

Solomon2,

There was no need to do a Google search as the article itself describes Larisa Sotieva as a humanitarian worker and an Ossetian.

We can assume that no one is neutral which is why its important to hear from all sides including Ossetians.

Posted by: Eliot Author Profile Page at August 26, 2008 10:42 AM

I have to echo the first poster. Holy crap.

I thought the site had crashed due to an Instalanche, but now he's saying there's been a cyber attack?

Please be careful out there.

Posted by: ron Author Profile Page at August 26, 2008 10:55 AM

Why are the posters in English? (Or are the ones pictured the English versions of the local posters?)

Posted by: Mike Z Author Profile Page at August 26, 2008 11:08 AM

Thomas Goltz's remarks on the irregulars don't tell the half of it.

The Russians went medievel on the Georgians, unleashing South Ossetian "militia", Cossack "volunteers" and former Chechen jihadis of the GRU Vostok Battalion to rape, kill, pillage and burn (eat babies).

Irregulars, Militias, Paramilitaries and Russian Schrecklichkeit Truppen

Notice the poster with the Georgian's arms cut off? Notice the Georgian is dressed like a Cossack? He is not. Cossacks are dressed like Georgians, and Circassians.

Achtung! Kosaken!

Posted by: Cannoneer No4 Author Profile Page at August 26, 2008 11:17 AM

Mike,

Several livejournal readers complained they could not access your blog, not even under anon proxy. Did your admin close access to an IP range, or is the problem on the other side?

Thanks! And thank you for the insightful, as usual, writing.

Simon

Posted by: Simon Hawkin Author Profile Page at August 26, 2008 11:49 AM

All of this information was already available to those with the inking to search. A simple Google search reveals stories from last year and beyond about Russian military movements around Georgia.

Even without that, it was clear from the efficency and specificity of the Russian attack that it had been planned to the letter, and was not an ad hoc reaction to "sudden" Georgian aggression.

A clear 3 step process on the part of Russia:
1. Move troops into place.
2. Have Ossetian puppets provoke a response.
3. Invade.

Posted by: Vitamin Tom Author Profile Page at August 26, 2008 11:55 AM

Pony Up People! This stuff ain't free!

Amazingly informative article Michael. What a gift to have such experts on hand. This is also a textbook example of how the MSM can get it so horribly wrong even when they don't have much of a dog in the fight.

I have been reading more of your stuff in the last year. This latest article was a tipping point for me to subscribe.

Folks! If you can afford it sign up for the paypal subscription. We all have doubts about the MSM. Put our money where our collectives mouths are and support someone who at least tries to tell the truth.

Be safe Michael!

Best Regards,

Joe

Posted by: Joe Libson Author Profile Page at August 26, 2008 12:21 PM

The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the - Web Reconnaissance for 08/26/2008 A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention, updated throughout the day...so check back often.

Posted by: David M Author Profile Page at August 26, 2008 12:32 PM

Hey Michael, you might wanna check out criticisms by Josh Foust of Registan:

'Totten is being fed disinformation. And he doesn’t know enough to say so, since by his own admission he went into the country—just like his colleague Brietbart in Baku—knowing absolutely nothing about the place beforehand. He does not understand enough about the hatred in the area that exists on both sides to parse through the endless dissembling (Goltz is an amazing writer, but he is also unabashedly anti-Russian). Nor does he seem to understand the right before president Saakashvili invaded the territory, he called for a unilateral cease-fire in an attempt to roll through Tskhinvali unopposed (Russian-sponsored teenagers reportedly hurled molotov cocktails at Georgian tanks).'

Posted by: NickW Author Profile Page at August 26, 2008 12:50 PM

Josh Foust: since by his own admission he went into the country—just like his colleague Brietbart in Baku—knowing absolutely nothing about the place beforehand.

What is this bullshit? I never said anything of the sort. Why should I take this Foust character seriously if he's going to insult me by pretending I insulted myself?

Unlike Andrew Breitbart, I write about foreign policy and geopolitics for a living, and I do it from inside the places I write about. I do not mean to insult Breitbart. He and I just have different jobs. Foust, on the other hand, is ridiculously and obnoxiously misquoting me. Heck, he isn't even misquoting me. He's just making shit up. To hell with him, whoever he is.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at August 26, 2008 1:07 PM

Well what I read here (I read everything). I and most georgians already knew The main is that russians can't believe this because russian press is 100% depended on russian government so russian people don't know the truth and they think that we did everything they even thought that we did ethnic cleansing there and Russian military is there to defend ossetians (but defend from who? georgia? OSSETIANS ARE GEORGIANS!!!) that's what people thinks in russia and they all blame us in insulting ossetians and abkhazians so everything is obvious here ....

Posted by: Geo_Tornike Author Profile Page at August 26, 2008 1:35 PM

Reading the Wall St. Journal on the conflict, I got the impression of the chain of events that your article related.

Which brings up a question as to how conflicts like this are reported since there are likely no news bureaus in Georgia staffed by the US Press. Do they hire stringers? Fly in reporters? How do you start to report conflicts like this.

By reading your article, I get an inkling as to how you go about it.

I've read that smuggling was the main source of income for the two breakaway regions, but that must have been supported by other Georgians--crime has no borders?

But regardless of who started the fight, Russia is in possession and will likely annex the areas. I wonder how long the local rebel rulers will stay in control before the Russians start running the place directly.

Posted by: nvreader Author Profile Page at August 26, 2008 2:01 PM

Two other comments:

1. Moscow/local Russian commanders could not keep their stories straight. You would hear the Moscow say that such and such would happen, but then the comment would be contradicted by what the local commanders would say. Surprising in this age of instant communication that there was evidently not good coordination in the press between the two groups.

2. The border must have been very loose as I could read stories from the local AP reporter or other news reporters from inside S. Ossetia that would contradict the Moscow press or local Russian commander press release. Also interviews were made with local residents, etc. Finally, the Wall St. Journal reported that the UN refugee SUV was stolen right in front of them and the local Russian troops by Ossetian irregulars in broad daylight.

I must admit that the reading the reporting in the US of both sides of the issue was quite unusual, together with the disconnect between Moscow and the local Russian authorities. Usually reporters get access to just one side, and the press releases and actions are consistent. I just wondered who was in charge of the invasion in Moscow--President Medvedev or someone in the hierarchy of the Russian army.

Posted by: nvreader Author Profile Page at August 26, 2008 2:48 PM

For: Michael Totten:

Off and on today I've been reading all these various comments which make me want to chime in again and say that you must be doing this the right way to provoke such responses. I'm not a blog reader, so all this is revealing. If you ever get syndicated, insist on salaried independence, if such a thing exists. Good wishes from a new fan. ( I also noticed "time's up" pop-ups on my screen waiting to bring this site in view.)

Posted by: Morningside Author Profile Page at August 26, 2008 3:51 PM

thanks for the great report Michael. We have read the AP, Reuters, the Georgian and Russian stories now we heard the unbiased one.

It amazes me how many people attack you simply because what you report (from ground zero) is not what they have been preaching from 10,000 miles way. No wonder they see their "expert" status hanging by a thread. Instead of bashing Michael, go and see for yourself. It isn't his fault. Get off your chair and do some original reporting.

(I think Breitbart said that he didn't know much about Azerbaijian and your critic included you in that and added Georgia to the list. Quite a leap ;)

Posted by: nameless-fool Author Profile Page at August 26, 2008 4:19 PM

Wonderful reporting. Highly informative, cogently laid out, responsibly and transparently rendered, well written. The references to Goltz's works are appreciated as well. A superb piece throughout.

To date, your and Richard Fernandez's probings have been the most soundly and responsibly rendered sources, there's not even a close second that I've come across.

Posted by: Michael_B Author Profile Page at August 26, 2008 4:45 PM

I echo the comment of Mike Z: the wall posters shown in this article are all in English, even the anti-Putin obscenity is in English. Those messages are not directed to the locals in Tbilisi, they're directed partly at Europe but mostly at the US. Are they the work of Patrick Worms?

It would be good if the reporting herein had asked the locals a few questions about those posters, who put them up, when did they go up? Are there any wall posters in Georgian, or Russian or any other local language? How else is the propaganda war being carried out by the local population?

With all due respect to Michael Totten, whose reporting I tend to trust, some additional observations on the various messages being sent from Tbilisi to the 'rest of the world' would be valuable. Likewise, on some of the messages for domestic consumption.

Posted by: Insufficiently Sensitive Author Profile Page at August 26, 2008 5:15 PM

BBC World interviewed a Georgian doctor who lived in the outskirts of South Ossetia. The doctor said there was regular back and forth shelling from each side for three weeks, which was dramatically escalated by the Russian and South Ossetian militia the day before the war began. The doctor described a heavy increase in casualties before the war even started. It should be available in BBC's video archives.

This was not a Russian "response". This was a Russian invasion.

Posted by: pj48 Author Profile Page at August 26, 2008 7:24 PM

I don't think every criticism Foust made is valid, Mike, but I think his basic point his sound. He's an SME on this topic and you're not, and your reporting demonstrates it. You've swallowed some dubious hooks.

James Joyner isn't incivil enough to give you an excuse to blow him off:

Any search for blame in this matter that starts in the summer of 2008 — or, indeed, this century — is bound to fail. There’s been plenty of action and reaction going on for generations to pin the responsibility on any one person or event.

Even I know that the Georgians and the Ossetians have been shelling each other, literally, for months prior to this crisis. You've based your entire article on a highly subjective and arbitrary claim that Ossetia "really" started the war because they switched from 80 to 120mm guns the day before Sasklavishli invaded. It's a poor piece of journalism.

It wasn't about taking Ossetia back, it was about fighting their way through that town to get onto that road to slow the Russian advance.

Oh, give me a break. The Russians sent an armored column into Ossetia - so what? They have freakin' military bases in Ossetia. They de facto annexed the place years ago, and the citizens are by all non-Georgian reports in favor of it. How many armored columns have they sent into Ossetia in the past 12 months? Why is this armored column so special?

In the noticeable absence of any evidence that Russia had August 8 marked off for "invade Georgia", the answer remains: Because Shevardnadze has decided to use it as a pretext for invading South Ossetia.

I mean, we're all in agreement on the timeline here being:

a) Georgia and Ossetia shell each other over a period of years,

b)one day, August 7 in fact, Shevardnadze moves a ton of troops into Ossetia proper in a highly unusual fashion.. right through the capital city in Ossetia..(we call that an 'invasion', and the fact that they had the common sense to go right for the russians doesn't change that - does the invasion of kuwait "not really count" if you head right for the US bases?)

c) the Russians proceed to put a whole lot more crap into Ossetia and evict the Georgians, also taking large chunks of Georgia in the process.

I mean, your article does an awful lot of d*cking around with the idea that all these ethnic conflicts are all evil Russian machinations. It sounds a lot like people who claim the Sunni/Shiite split is an American plot.
Shevardnadze - and I say this knowing full well that he may indeed be the better guy in the conflict by a nose, is a Georgian nationalist, a would-be Milosevic with a better human rights record. He wants to forcibly assimilate his separatist regions by use of overwhelming firepower. And so does everyone else in Georgia.

I mean, you came into this trip knowing you were going to be getting exactly one side of the story, and as much dog and pony as possible. If you were in any way concerned about that fact, you'd have been talking to Foust before you even got off the ground.

Posted by: glasnost Author Profile Page at August 26, 2008 7:44 PM

Saakashvili.

Posted by: leo Author Profile Page at August 26, 2008 7:54 PM

Even without that, it was clear from the efficency and specificity of the Russian attack that it had been planned to the letter, and was not an ad hoc reaction to "sudden" Georgian aggression.

This is not an either/or situation. It was planned to the letter, and it was a response to sudden Georgian aggression. Putin didn't have to be the reincarnation of Nostradamus to know that the Georgians were planning to take back Ossetia by force.

Lost in all the honking Scary Russia bleating is that in Georgia & Abkhazia you have two self-consciously distinct communal groups that hate each other, and one of them (Georgia) tried to conquer the other one (Ossetia). Georgian government, president, and populace has been all for forcibly reacquiring that land since Shevardnadze was elected - there have been a number of articles pointing out that that's the most popular piece of the guy's platform. To pass August 7 off as an altrusitic, territorially neutral pre-emptive strike is no more believeable coming from the Georgians than it would be from the Russians. If the Russians hadn't gone in, South Ossetia's land would be annexed to Georgia, and its population would all be in Russia - pretty much like how it ended up, except the Ossetians get to keep their houses and many Georgians don't.

The heroes and villians here escape me entirely, sorry. Just bullies and victims swapping roles by the day.

Posted by: glasnost Author Profile Page at August 26, 2008 8:08 PM

This piece reflects a single report, not a thesis, not a history - a report. It is what it is - and, importantly, pretends to be no more than that. Methinks some members of the commetariat doth protest too much.

It's a superb piece of reporting precisely for that reason, among other reasons still.

Posted by: Michael_B Author Profile Page at August 26, 2008 8:14 PM

Glastnost: or any other Georgian expert for that matter (and we're talking Saakashvili here; Shevardnadze has condemned Saakashvili's actions). Criticizing Saakashvili's recklessness in advancing into South Ossetia does not preclude one from criticizing Russian behavior once they broke into Georgia proper. I, and many others who actually do know the region, have done both. Neither side is innocent—both were actually pretty appalling in what they did to each other (for example, satellite imagery suggests the buildings Georgia destroyed in South Ossetia were primarily residential), and to portray Georgia as Russia's victim, which Michael does here, is reckless.

And Michael, I accused you of not doing your homework. You flew to Tblisi on a whim after your junket to Baku—that's not a crime, but don't cop an attitude about it. I didn't call you names. Don't make this personal when it doesn't have to be.

Posted by: Joshua Foust Author Profile Page at August 26, 2008 8:18 PM

I have read some of Josh Foust's analysis on Registan, and I don't think he always knows what he is talking about, especially military matters. He's very vocal against the use of airpower in Afghanistan...I seem to recall him saying how it was silly to use them against mud huts. (note that dried mud walls make a pretty good bunker.) If you are taking fire from a mud brick building, I would guess that an air-strike is much more attractive than storming the building, throwing grenades and shooting into it.

Also, he sure seems eager to bash Michael, who is actually in Georgia, and who specifies very clearly who he interviewed for his piece and where they came from.

How did Michael "fall for it" by reporting what the Georgians say happened, confirmed by soldiers, and also by an independent regional expert.

Posted by: Harun Author Profile Page at August 26, 2008 8:19 PM

"If the Russians hadn't gone in, South Ossetia's land would be annexed to Georgia"

I though SO and Abkhazia are Georgian territories.
At least for now. To the best of my knowledge only Russia recognized their independence and only few hours ago (I suspect Cuba and the likes are soon to follow).
If anyone is trying to annex anything here it would be Russia.

Posted by: leo Author Profile Page at August 26, 2008 8:33 PM

Please excuse my wild dyslexia.

Posted by: glasnost Author Profile Page at August 26, 2008 8:34 PM

This is unfortunately when everything started," said Kezerashvili, the Georgian defense minister. "At 12 at night."

Georgian forces fired artillery rounds into Tskhinvali, which sits in a hollow. They attacked villages on surrounding higher ground. By 1 a.m., they were shelling the road along which a Russian column of more than 100 vehicles, including tanks and other armored vehicles, was moving south from the Roki Tunnel.

The column stopped for 90 minutes, Kezerashvili said.

By 2 a.m. on Friday, Aug. 8, Kezerashvili said, Georgian ground troops had advanced to the edge of Tskhinvali, and Georgian units had unleashed the BM-21 multiple rocket system, which can launch 40 rockets in 20 seconds.

Kezerashvili said the system was used to target separatist government buildings in the center of Tskhinvali, including the Defense Ministry and the Interior Ministry, where police forces have their headquarters. "It's not like a very open and big city, and I can tell you that we only targeted the places, the governmental organizations," Kezerashvili said.

But military experts said the BM-21 is a weapon for battlefield combat and not for use anywhere near civilians. "The BM-21 was designed to attack forces in large areas, and, as a consequence, if you use them in an urban environment, the likelihood of collateral damage is high," said retired Army Maj. Gen. William L. Nash, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/08/16/AR2008081600502_4.html?sid=ST2008081700211&s_pos=

The rest of the article makes pretty clear that, whichever country went first, they both went in within hours of each other - except that Russian troops had been in Ossetia for years and Georgian troops had not been in Ossetia for years. Yes, Leo, SO & Abkhaz are legally Georgian territory - kind of like how Kurdistan is legally Iraqi territory, & Eritrea was "Ethiopian territory" in 1992. My point was only that Georgia would have needed the tanks to make its way into Ossetia whether the Russians were there or not. When you need tanks get in the door, you're effectively mounting an invasion.

Posted by: glasnost Author Profile Page at August 26, 2008 8:47 PM

Georgian troops had not been in Ossetia for years.

This isn't true either. I need someone other than me to make this argument, as I clearly cannot keep my sh*t straight today. The point is that when the MSM identified Georgian armored columns rolling into Ossetia as the beginning of the war, they were basically right, despite all this shuck and jive from the Georgians. And now I must stop tripping over my own shoelaces.

Posted by: glasnost Author Profile Page at August 26, 2008 8:51 PM

All this proves once again that the Caucasus still needs the heavy hand of Russia (or Turkey) to keep it quiet. It's been that way for centuries. Russia doesn't like occupying these places - it's expensive and nasty. But the idiotic Christian factions therein, like Northern Ireland, Lebanon, Yugoslavia and others, can't behave and organize themselves. The Christian factions are relatively easy to divide and stir up - something that has been going on since Georgians were under the control of the Turks. The only peace they've known has been under the boot of the Russians. Unfortunately, Christendom in these little republics is not able to organize and defend itself very well. The result is always chaos until clearer heads take control of the bus. Maybe they just drink too much. You know what I'm sayin'

Posted by: José Author Profile Page at August 26, 2008 9:29 PM

I do not deny Ossetian's (or Abkhazian) right to self determination. Although I find it strange that small territory with population of 60,000 (less than capacity of Denver Bronko's stadium) is more determined to gain independence than much greater population of their brethren residing on much greater territory. At some point both will decide to talk about unification. The only question remains in what form, as free or as Russian subjects (I think it is safe to rule out Georgia as contender).

Neither party is innocent of cause but it is certainly not Georgia's design. And not even Ossetia's or Abkhazia's. Russia must pay for it or we all will suffer later.

If "SO & Abkhaz are legally Georgian territory"
then "When you need tanks get in the door, you're effectively mounting an invasion"
makes up for very poor excuse.

Posted by: leo Author Profile Page at August 26, 2008 9:29 PM

Josh Foust: Michael, I accused you of not doing your homework.

That is not even remotely what you said.

This is what you said: by his own admission he went into the country—just like his colleague Brietbart in Baku—knowing absolutely nothing about the place beforehand.

That is a lie. You are a completely full of shit individual. If you take issue with the regional experts I quoted you should argue with them instead of lying about me and telling your readers that I called myself an ignoramus.

Don't make this personal when it doesn't have to be.

I'm not making it personal because you criticized what I wrote. I'm making it personal because you lied about me in public.

You are a dick.

Apologize or get off my blog.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at August 26, 2008 9:31 PM

Michael, is there any way you can asek why they didn't take out the tunnel entrance from the air...this is to me the key question of the conflict...and why US satellite assets did not pick up the advance sooner. thanks.

Posted by: jp Author Profile Page at August 26, 2008 9:38 PM

I'm going to put this as diplomatically as I can, Mr. Totten, because I can see you are unusually touchy on the subject. From your article, you appear to have interviewed only the following: a media spokesman employed by the Georgian government, an academic well known for his anti-Russian views, two wounded Georgian soldiers, and one wounded Georgian civilian. You then wrote that you virtually alone among reporters know for sure that Georgia didn't start the war.

Perhaps when writing an article dealing with a conflict that has three participants, it is good to talk to more than just one of them.

Posted by: Angus Mc Author Profile Page at August 26, 2008 9:53 PM

Mike,

I can't tell whether you or this Foust guy is right about events. Would be nice to see further confirmation of the events on the ground other than a possibly axe-grinding ex-pat who happens to hate the Kremlin. From the report I don't get the sense that there is much proof beyond these two guys' version of events.

Any hard proof or even substantive circumstantial evidence would be helpful. If this is hard proof, I would expect people in the Pentagon and NATO to take off the kid gloves with Russia and start smacking them around.

It sucks that Russia has pretty much all of western Europe over their oil and natural gas barrel, otherwise they might have a little stiffer backbone on this issue and make Russia pay for this land grab. This would be a nice reason to smack Russia around a little if only there were hard evidence. Perhaps we can go to the two George's (Bush and Tenet) playbook an just "manufacture" some evidence.

Posted by: Graham Author Profile Page at August 26, 2008 10:10 PM

Michael,

I look forward to reading this long post when I have a few free minutes. I'm glad you are there to dig a bit deeper into the matter. Last night on German TV a well-known Russia correspondent pointed out that South Ossetia was basically a gift of Stalin's to Georgia. Stalin was a native of Georgia, as you know. If this is true, it certainly casts a different light on the current situation. Was South Ossetia ethnically cleansed by Georgia in the past, explaining the large Georgian population, or was it mixed from the start? To what extent is the alleged close link to Georgia a post-Stalin fiction. This in no way excuses Russian excesses, but maybe you should back up a few steps. I have not read your post in entirety but I scanned it and it appears that you skipped from oldentimes to post-Soviet collapse. There may be something from the Soviet era that explains why the Ossetians (and Abkazians?) really don't want to be part of Georgia.

Posted by: Bikrboy Author Profile Page at August 26, 2008 10:51 PM

South Ossetians don't want to be a part of Georgia! I can understand the Georgian government is desparate cause they don't have much of the country left. But if you go ask the Ossetians, they hate the Georgians. Why force them to be in a country they don't to be a part of?

I say give them freedom and rule on their own, not force them into warfare from both sides.

Posted by: karbon Author Profile Page at August 26, 2008 10:59 PM

People are asking where is the media confirmation in South Ossetia? How convenient because Human Rights Watch, OCSE monitors, the New York Times, the Times of London, the BBC, and reporters from Le Monde and Turkey have all been denied access by the Russian military or been granted extremely limited access only to the damage they want the media to see.

Instead Russian media has flooded the wire with accounts of Georgian attrocities that took place on August 7-8th. No one has confirmed anywhere near the 2000 deaths initial claimed by the Russian military. And despite the satellite photo referenced above, there are videos and photos online now of people on the streets of South Ossetians celebrating and posing with stolen Georgian military and civilian equipment. In Abkazia, there are reports that individual Russian soldiers have set up a market for stolen Georgian military and civilian goods just inside the border. For some reason, I have a feeling that will also be a difficult story for the Western media to track down as well. We can all expect a swift denial in/by the Russian press forthwith.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/georgia/2614559/Russian-troops-accused-of-selling-loot-from-Georgia.html

Georgia conflict: Russian troops accused of selling loot

Posted by: pj48 Author Profile Page at August 26, 2008 11:12 PM

Thanks for the excellent article, Michael!

For the benefit of others who, like me, have come to this site for the first time and who might wonder if the article is actually unbiased, I wondered the same thing. The reason I believe it is because it explains a couple of odd things I've noticed about the situation while surfing various news sources in the past few weeks. I've added a URL to my livejournal where I've put an entry discussing the details for anyone interested; I think you can click on my sig to get to it.

Oh, and a couple of factual points some other commenters have missed:

- Yes, the Georgians also had forces in South Ossetia before this conflict started. Evidently the "peacekeeping" forces in South Ossetia were a combination of Russians and Georgians. What this article reveals is that the Russians sent in forces above and beyond their agreed peacekeeping force level at the same time or even prior to the Georgians doing so on 7 August.

- The Ossetians moved into this area of Georgia some centuries ago, at the same time as they settled in the area of Russia immediately to the north. So yes, it was part of Georgia before the Ossetians moved in, and Georgians and Ossetians have evidently been living together in the area for centuries.

Posted by: Warren J. Dew Author Profile Page at August 26, 2008 11:18 PM

Oh, couple more things brought up in comments since I started my post:

- The Georgians didn't take out the Roki tunnel from the air because they don't have much of an air force, and nothing that could take out a major tunnel, which is a very difficult target.

- Even the Russians have admitted that their estimate of 2000 South Ossetian civilians dead was wrong, and their current estimate is less than 200.

I promise to shut up now.

Posted by: Warren J. Dew Author Profile Page at August 26, 2008 11:27 PM

Sorry I had to take apart this Graham guy's comment below -
What everyone needs to realize is that Georgia is a weak nascent/new state and Democracy and a multi ethnic one at that... Russia is far far stronger and wealthier than they are... so of course Russia picked this fight, engineered it, and mastered the propoganda... they're the fucking KG fing B and they're the ones who mastered this to begin with for the past 80 years...
You see Russia like China doesn't have to worry about foreign reporters or far left libs in Europe or the US... bcs although they're the masters of cleansing and atrocities (starting with Stalin) they don't give a shit what Code Pink and a bunch of fruit loops in the Western press say....
These fools can only focus on 1 bad guy the US (George Bush) and it's little brother Israel...

Graham -
Mike - I can't tell whether you or this Foust guy is right about events. Would be nice to see further confirmation of the events on the ground other than a possibly axe-grinding ex-pat who happens to hate the Kremlin. From the report I don't get the sense that there is much proof beyond these two guys' version of events.
Ummmm yeah that would be bcs the Russian military won't allow in any reporters... lol!
Foust played his hand already... Mike's piece is measured and inquisitive and probing.. Foust comes off like a biased dick as Michael already stated. Any hard proof or even substantive circumstantial evidence would be helpful. If this is hard proof, I would expect people in the Pentagon and NATO to take off the kid gloves with Russia and start smacking them around. Graham, you must live in Alice in fing Wonderland?
Smack Russia around in a mountainous ethnic diverse area that they've owend for the most part of the past 80 years while we have over 120,000 troops in Afghanistan and Iraq? LOL!
Yeah we can just smack Russia (Soviet KGB) around at a whim's notice... we'll just pull out our invisible airplane from Super Woman and casually fly in and kick their asses.
It sucks that Russia has pretty much all of western Europe over their oil and natural gas barrel, otherwise they might have a little stiffer backbone on this issue and make Russia pay for this land grab. This would be a nice reason to smack Russia around a little if only there were hard evidence.
Yeah if only there were ""hard"" evidence than all of the Europeans and the US would simply fly in the Super Friends and ""whack around"" these Russian gooons...
Perhaps we can go to the two George's (Bush and Tenet) playbook an just "manufacture" some evidence.
Not that I'm commenting on the veracity of that last statement 1 way or the other... but somehow from the rest of your post I'm not surprised at that last statement either. Posted by: Mike_Nargizian Author Profile Page at August 26, 2008 11:39 PM

Sorry I had to take apart this Graham guy's comment below -
What everyone needs to realize is that Georgia is a weak nascent/new state and Democracy and a multi ethnic one at that... Russia is far far stronger and wealthier than they are... so of course Russia picked this fight, engineered it, and mastered the propoganda... they're the fucking KG fing B and they're the ones who mastered this to begin with for the past 80 years...
You see Russia like China doesn't have to worry about foreign reporters or far left libs in Europe or the US... bcs although they're the masters of cleansing and atrocities (starting with Stalin) they don't give a shit what Code Pink and a bunch of fruit loops in the Western press say....
These fools can only focus on 1 bad guy the US (George Bush) and it's little brother Israel...

Graham -
Mike - I can't tell whether you or this Foust guy is right about events. Would be nice to see further confirmation of the events on the ground other than a possibly axe-grinding ex-pat who happens to hate the Kremlin. From the report I don't get the sense that there is much proof beyond these two guys' version of events.
Ummmm yeah that would be bcs the Russian military won't allow in any reporters... lol!
Foust played his hand already... Mike's piece is measured and inquisitive and probing.. Foust comes off like a biased dick as Michael already stated.
Any hard proof or even substantive circumstantial evidence would be helpful. If this is hard proof, I would expect people in the Pentagon and NATO to take off the kid gloves with Russia and start smacking them around.
Graham, you must live in Alice in fing Wonderland?
Smack Russia around in a mountainous ethnic diverse area that they've owend for the most part of the past 80 years while we have over 120,000 troops in Afghanistan and Iraq? LOL!
Yeah we can just smack Russia (Soviet KGB) around at a whim's notice... we'll just pull out our invisible airplane from Super Woman and casually fly in and kick their asses.
It sucks that Russia has pretty much all of western Europe over their oil and natural gas barrel, otherwise they might have a little stiffer backbone on this issue and make Russia pay for this land grab. This would be a nice reason to smack Russia around a little if only there were hard evidence.
Yeah if only there were ""hard"" evidence than all of the Europeans and the US would simply fly in the Super Friends and ""whack around"" these Russian gooons...
Perhaps we can go to the two George's (Bush and Tenet) playbook an just "manufacture" some evidence.
Not that I'm commenting on the veracity of that last statement 1 way or the other... but somehow from the rest of your post I'm not surprised at that last statement either. Posted by: Mike_Nargizian Author Profile Page at August 26, 2008 11:41 PM

Dear Michael,
Thank you so much for the article. It truthfully reflects the history of the conflicts. I’m Georgian born American citizen. I am blessed and very proud to be an American. I came here in 1994 so I have lived through the events you describe up to that date.
Let me say also, I read your WSJ article in which you interviewed several women from Gori area. These women told you they were so grateful for the U.S. support. Any moral support, any truthful information such this helps. Georgian-Russian relationship before the war was not the best as you known it. The voice of Georgian people was not heard until Russian tanks finally charged towards Tbilisi. But at least now the world sees Putin’s true face and his desire to bring nearby territories into his submission. Thanks again! You don’t know what it means to the Georgians when the simple truth is told. Russia lies so much that world doesn’t know whom to believe. I don’t hate Russian people. I had lots of Russian friends growing up in Georgia. What I can’t understand is how could Russian people let Putin go so far. By “so far” I don’t just mean Georgia. Putin is literally moving Russia back into 19th and 20th century. Why don’t Russian people see that? Why do they want to relive most horrible times in their history?

Jose,
My mother is Georgian, my father-Azeri. My father was born and raised in Georgia. I’m an American who was born and raised in Georgia and most importantly I am Christian. You offended my religion but I am not going to respond to that.
Instead, I agree with you…for centuries Georgia suffered invasions and ruthless rulers. You mentioned Russian Empire and Turks. Did you forget Persians? Or how about Mongols? I think it’s remarkable that Georgia has survived all these and conserved its own language, alphabet, culture and its religion. It only shows how strong Georgian spirit is.
You say: “Russia doesn't like occupying these places - it's expensive and nasty. “
I am not a historian but anyone knows that it has been Russian Empire’s utmost goal to gain more land and territories. Later it was Russian Red Army that invaded Georgia in 1921. I don’t understand how hard it is to get the facts straight. Unless of course you live in places like Russia, where people are misinformed through TV. Although in today’s world one would have Internet to get different sources of info.

Insufficiently Sensitive,
You wrote:
“I echo the comment of Mike Z: the wall posters shown in this article are all in English, even the anti-Putin obscenity is in English. Those messages are not directed to the locals in Tbilisi, they're directed partly at Europe but mostly at the US. Are they the work of Patrick Worms?”
How do you differentiate that the poster messages are partly directed at Europe but mostly at the US?
And why are they in English? Well, this is my guess… Georgians don’t need to hear those messages because they already know. I’m sure there some posters in Russian language but it’s not like they will be shown on the Russian TV or something. It only makes sense that yes! the Georgians are trying to convey their message to the West and US. When I first saw the posters it only looked natural to me that they were in English.

Warren J. Dew,
Thanks so much for your comment on history of South Ossetia. Here is copy from Wikipedia:
“The Ossetians are originally descendants of the Alans, a Sarmatian tribe. They became Christians during the early Middle Ages, under Georgian and Byzantine influences. Under Mongol rule, they were pushed out of their medieval homeland south of the Don River in present-day Russia and part migrated towards and over the Caucasus mountains, to Georgia20 where they formed three distinct territorial entities. Digor in the west came under the influence of the neighboring Kabard people, who introduced Islam. Tualläg in the south became what is now South Ossetia, part of the historical Georgian principality of Samachablo21 where Ossetians found refuge from Mongol invaders. Iron in the north became what is now North Ossetia, under Russian rule from 1767. Most Ossetians are now Christian (approximately 61%); there is also a significant Muslim minority.”

Now you know how Georgians feel. Georgians remember their history way back. They consider that Ossetians came down from North (Don River) to Georgia. Samachablo simply means that that territory was owned by Georgian aristocratic family Machabelli. But no war is fair, no war is black and white. To Georgians these conflicts orchestrated by Russia are not about territories anymore. This is about freedom and democracy. More than a decade ago Soviet Union fell apart. Georgia was one of the first former USSR countries to fight for independence. Never did I think history whould repeat itself.

If anybody interested, look up “April 9 1989, Tbilisi” in Wikipedia. There is reference to the Abkhazian conflict.
Also, you can see the April 9, 1989 massacre on YouTube now. I didn't even try. Brings back bad memories...

Posted by: mg Author Profile Page at August 27, 2008 1:42 AM

There are two issues here: One is Tottens intelectual integrity, and the other is the matter at hand, who started the serious agression. J. Foust quite correctly points out that Tottens report can be best read as a propaganda-piece and not as honest reporting, and the fact that Totten chooses to obsess over one line that admittedly wasnt very well formulated by Foust shows, at least to me, that he knows he is guilty. Its a internet rule-of-thumb, when the opposition starts getting hangups on personal issues, they do not have a substantive argument.
"You are a dick. Apologize or get off my blog. " Truly spoken like a intelectual caught in dishonesty.

The fact remains that Tottens sources are wildly partial. So the text should be read as a Georgian propaganda-missive in order to explain to the blogosphere the question we are all wondering: how on earth did they screw up that badly and commit suicide-by-cop on a national level? Totten reports the historical revision version, that the russians started it all. Its Info-war 101, how to cover up a screwup: Hire in semi-respected professionals to amplify the meta-story, so that the piece can be used as reference by others to cover the facts on the ground. All discussions from now on in will not be about the issues at hand but about Tottens credentials. Job well done, Totten, hope they paid you well.

The real issue, on the other hand is much less clearcut. The question remains why on earth Georgia decided to go all in and cause the destruction of all they had been building for the last years, what their contigency plans were, what their best and worst-case scenarios were. Post-Kosovo they must have clearly understood that the russians would not care one whit about the protestations of sovereign nationstates right to lands occupied by unwilling minorities. If Totten had been a journalist instead of a mouthpiece, he would have gone in on these questions much harder. As it stands now, the report is just that, a report of one sides version of the story. That does not make it truth, and this is Tottens fallacy: he buys the propaganda.

Posted by: fnord Author Profile Page at August 27, 2008 2:17 AM

I enjoyed reading the article and the comments posted underneath. Interesting to see people who have no actual connection with what's happening here a) take it so personally and b) assume they know better than people on the ground.

The truth is, there is no objective truth. Totten's article offers a pretty one sided view, yes, but if you had been here with me in Tbilisi for the past 2 weeks, you would know that all we have been able to do, in a region where the media is not free, and where the supposedly free international media has proven itself both inaccurate and often biased, is listen to and read reports on every side and somehow draw your own conclusions about whats going on. Hence we have watched Russia Today, between CNN and BBC world, listened to independent reports and testimonies, monitored civil.ge and rferl and heard panic and rumours on the street. Theres no point knocking someone down for investigating the story on one side. The other side has its own reports. We need both and we cant always rely on the big stations to find this out for us.

The second point I have to make is to Karbon, who stated 'if you ask the ossetians they hate the georgians'... please do not insult the people of this region by making wild comments about what they think. You can always find people who say they 'hate' another nation. But to perpetuate the myth that all Ossetians hate Georgians is not only ignorant its also incredibly irresponsible. There are, as the article notes, thousands of Ossetians who live in Georgia and are well integrated. They choose not to live in south Ossetia because its run by gangs. The villages destroyed in this war were mixed Georgian-Ossetian villages. Some of the few remaining Georgians that remained in Ossetia were killed last night. Others have been forcibly deported. Armed Abkhaz rebels have been raping and murdering Georgians in the Kodori Gorge, which was until a week ago Georgian controlled territory- the residents are mainly deportees from the previous wars in Abkhazia by the way. We have many Russians living in Tbilisi. Georgians living in Russia are now shown on you-tube being attacked by facist gangs. How long before the hate turns around and Georgians turn on their minorities? I hope it wont happen. People live on both sides of the ethnic barriers you imagine exist and until now their lives were relatively peaceful....we have 18 sizeable minorities in Georgia. This region cannot afford to let its ethnic relatics deteriorate into the kind of hatred you are promoting.

The reason I know these things and the reason i had to post a comment is because I live in Georgia and work with minorities every day. So do not level accusations at me of being ill-informed. Think, before making rash comments along ethnic lines, what impact you are having. Presidents Saakashvili and Medvedev may not have to think about consequences of their actions at this societal level but we can.

Posted by: ExpatinTbilisi Author Profile Page at August 27, 2008 4:56 AM

Mike_Nargizian,

In all fairness "smack Russia around" does not have to mean military action. Nor it have to happen immediately. With Russia it may be long and careful process but pay they will.

"Perhaps we can go to the two George's (Bush and Tenet) playbook an just "manufacture" some evidence."

And I agree with you, this is too cheap of a shot on the part of Graham to even dignify it with response.

Posted by: leo Author Profile Page at August 27, 2008 5:14 AM

Wow what is truly evident is not only is Michael Trotten under cyber attack he is also under Soviet/Russian Sockpuppet attack.

Yes all those folks trotting out the Russian/Soviet party line, j'accuse of being Soviet Sockpuppets.

Another Soviet who defected had much to say about these sorts of affairs. Anatoliy Golitsyn called most of the crap that is happening in his letter to the CIA.

Posted by: Pierre Legrand Author Profile Page at August 27, 2008 5:28 AM

Greetings from Moscow.

mg, you write "it has been Russian Empire's utmost goal to gain more land and territories".

It has been indeed. At most times in the recent past. It also has been the British Empire's goal at most points in the past, but somehow people aren't bringing it up right now. Presenting Russia's current actions as a land grab trivializes the situation needlessly.

You also write, "at least now the world sees Putin’s true face and his desire to bring nearby territories into his submission. [...] Putin is literally moving Russia back into 19th and 20th century."

Putin went to KGB school. Border security is one of KGB's functions. Being a very good student, what he's doing is securing the perimeter. He's afraid that if he doesn't secure the perimeter, he'll get color revolutions in the likes of Tatarstan, which has oil, and these will be followed by treatment just like NATO's bombardment of Belgrade. There is ample precedent to be concerned on his side.

Understanding this fear is key to understanding Russia, and avoiding further conflict.

There is another dangerous oversimplification when you and others write, "This is about freedom and democracy".

Putin/Medvedev certainly have a peculiar vision of openness and democracy with the major TV stations, but not the press or the radio, firmly under the government cotrol. If this is all about freedom and democracy, however, an explanation would be deserved as to why Georgia's main opposition television station was shut at gunpoint
in November, 2007, and why Saakashvili's government blocked access to all Russian media and internet sites around 19 August. I note that I can watch CNN and BBC unimpeded while sitting in Moscow. And internet access has never been restricted in Russia in its history, hence the joy of leaving comments on blogs.

Hoping for peace.

Posted by: Tundra/Desert Author Profile Page at August 27, 2008 5:30 AM

"how on earth did they (Georgians) screw up that badly and commit suicide-by-cop on a national level?"

I have no clue what motivated Saakashvili but if Georgians will play it right they will come out as winners eventually. If you ask me they are doing everything right so far (I heard Churchill did not stop bombing of Coventry once while he knew he could. Coventry got destroyed but Germans lost war of the Atlantic).
First order of things to get attention of the rest of the world and Georgians got it. Payed a lot but they got it. Will it help? Future will tell.

Posted by: leo Author Profile Page at August 27, 2008 5:44 AM

Comrade glasnost,
you're doing a great service for the Fatherland but we ain't buying it. We've seen Russia pull these tricks quite a few times, and this one is to show they "cannot be ignored because look what we can do." Well, running over Georgia is one thing and if USA wanted to play that game, it would take CIA just a few days to arm the Chechens and a few other republics to test Russia's newfound love for freedom.

Some background on Russia's nightmare:
1. Their oil fields are running dry (Pootie & Co Inc and merely ripping off Gazprom and not investing in new fields.) "At its current rate of production, though, Russia will run out of oil relatively soon, according to BP statistics"
www.mcclatchydc.com/226/story/49962.html

They have ripped off quite a few private companies so people are reluctant to invest making their economy resource based.

3. "If nothing changes, in 30 years people of Muslim descent will definitely outnumber ethnic Russians," www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2006/11/19/MNGJGMFUVG1.DTL and we're talking about 'Muslims' with a capital M.

4. "United Nations projections show its population declining from about 150 million in 1989, when communism collapsed, to about 90 million at mid-century, and the median age will rise from 25 to 50 years. Russian women have 13 abortions for every 10 live births" www.atimes.com/atimes/central_asia/ib21ag01.html

and the best: China wants Siberia, apparently the Tsar dupped them at a very bad moment for the Chinese, but China with 1.X billion is sending them by the millions there.

Google : "Siberia is Becoming Chinese"
"Chinese emigrants to conquer Siberia"
Many analysts have been wondering how China will go about it, outbreed, buy it, or just push a weak Russia away in 50-70 years.

So Russia, still think you're powerful?

Posted by: nameless-fool Author Profile Page at August 27, 2008 5:48 AM

"Putin went to KGB school. Border security is one of KGB's functions."

Georgia is not Russia.

"He's afraid that if he doesn't secure the perimeter, he'll get color revolutions in the likes of Tatarstan, which has oil, and these will be followed by treatment just like NATO's bombardment of Belgrade."

Is Putin's intention to massacre Tatars? If not I see not reason to compare. To top it off I am sure Tatars have example of Chechnya to consider and being oil-fattened Tatars would not want to change anything today in any case.

Posted by: leo Author Profile Page at August 27, 2008 5:57 AM

A truly impressive article. I'll have to read that a couple of times to take everything in.

Thanks.

Posted by: Marc Author Profile Page at August 27, 2008 6:08 AM

Thanks for your response, leo. I was going to ignore tovarish Tundra/Desert's comment as it was so clear from it how Russians see themselves as a great nation who is destined to rule over former soviet territories. They are great nation alright but only if they could get rid of their heavy hand ruling mentality.
Georgian opposition tv station was shut down and reopened after two months. I don't want to defend Saakashvili blindly in everything he does. Only want to say for the past few years Georgia made big strides toward democracy. One thing is for sure. After Russian attacks the opposition leaders backed Saakashvili 100%.
I too hope for peace, Tundra. Davaite zhit druzhno. Vi na vashei territorii, an mi na nashei.

Posted by: mg Author Profile Page at August 27, 2008 6:54 AM

There is nothing wrong with seen themselves as great nation (who doesn't). They just should not forget to act the part.

Posted by: leo Author Profile Page at August 27, 2008 7:05 AM

I am glad for the debate I read in these comments. I, personally, side with Mike's views, and recognize how frustrating it can be for someone with his ass on the line taking flack from arm chair observers. For the first time in history, though, we can feel confident that we will have an informed vote on who to elect to put our kids in harm's way, or not. The "Game" Russia is undoubtedly playing, has been made obsolete now, with this Internet. Propaganda machines have been seriously compromised on both sides of the isle. Corporate news organisations will be forced back to ethical parsing of the issues. Pay check journalism has been dealt a death blow. And people like Totten will ultimately save lives. Now that, folks, is a life well lived.
Independant journalism is the way of the future. We will seldom ever see, much less have a chance to jump in early, on a perfect American Enterprise. I say turn up the volume. There are lives at stake.

Posted by: JohnJimson Author Profile Page at August 27, 2008 7:05 AM

Leo says, "Is Putin's intention to massacre Tatars? If not I see not reason to compare. To top it off I am sure Tatars have example of Chechnya to consider and being oil-fattened Tatars would not want to change anything today in any case."

Well, the feared scenario goes like this: Oil runs out (there's 10 years of it left, give or take). Tatar (or Bashkir, or some other place) people go poor and disaffected, and an independence movement forms. George Soros, or whatever will have become of his money, funds a revolution. A U.S.-educated leader becomes president. Independence is proclaimed. The newly established nation befriends the U.S. and European powers, and pleas for U.N. recognition. Russia bring in tanks. NATO then would bomb if not for Russia's nuclear weapons; instead there is a complete economic embargo, which makes the already dire oil-less situation even worse. Does any of this appear impossible? Hardly so.

mg, my comments weren't intended to whitewash Putin's regime, only to correct misunderstandings. It would seem that it is important to understand the other side's motives to be able to work out a solution. I approve of some of Russia's actions no more than you do, in particular the continued presence in Georgia proper. Your comments, however, seem to reveal a deeply seated mistrust and willingness to assume certain things simply based on someone's origin. "Clear from it how Russians see themselves"? I am from San Francisco, originally. Would you transfer your conclusions on all San Franciscans?

Peace.

Posted by: Tundra/Desert Author Profile Page at August 27, 2008 7:12 AM

Josh Foust at August 26, 2008 8:18 PM --

I claim that you have made a severe misrepresentation in your comment. You wrote --

Neither side is innocent—both were actually pretty appalling in what they did to each other (for example, satellite imagery suggests the buildings Georgia destroyed in South Ossetia were primarily residential), and to portray Georgia as Russia's victim, which Michael does here, is reckless.

Your [Foust's] key assertion (bolding added) appears to be false.

The link you provide goes to a U.N. satellite image composited from photos taken on 19 August; hi-res details are archived at the UNOSAT site. These images pinpoint the thousand-plus damaged and destroyed buildings in the city of Tskhinvali and north ~10 km along the P-2 highway.

[snip]

My entire comment was too lengthy and too linky to pass either Michael Totten's or Josh Foust's spam filter. I've added a version as Comment #4 to Armed Liberal's post What Really Happened in Ossetia? at the blog "Winds of Change."

Posted by: AMac Author Profile Page at August 27, 2008 8:11 AM

Tundra/Desert,
I could not care less where you are from in this case, but you have typical "Russian mentality". And I am very sorry if I offended you with this. Russia is home to probably tens if not hundreds of different ethnic groups and origins. You being from San Francisco does not change anything. Maybe I should be more clear. When I say "Russian mentality" I meant Putin's Russia. Maybe I should say "Soviet mentality" or "KGB mentality". Otherwise, as I said I don't hate Russia. Russian people will pay heavy price themselves for letting Putin/Medvedev to go on. Didn't they learn from history? How many intelligentsia have to die in Russia? How many Russian journalists will be murdered?
As to your defense of Putin's future actions with tatars I am totally stunned. So Russia is justified in its dealings in Chechnya or with tatars. But Georgia cannot keep the territories that belonged to it for centuries.

Leo, I didn't say it was wrong to call Russia great. They're just far away from greatness which is achieved only through democracy.

Anyway gentlemen, it was nice visiting this blog (this is my first time blogging). I have to go now and do the real job and tend to my children.

Posted by: mg Author Profile Page at August 27, 2008 8:14 AM

I wrote an article about this, in Spanish:

http://docedoce.net/?p=2776

Be warned that I'm no expert and it's just out of info I gathered a posteriori. However when I started hearing and reading about this I thought like everyone that Saakashvili had been a fool and that Russia had but responded, albeit disproportionally and disregarding Georgia's sovereignty, and I as very sceptic as well about the claims of genocide from both parties. Now my opinion is very different.

Well if you can read Spanish I invite you guys to read my article. I'd translate it if I had where to post it.

Posted by: Demosthenes Author Profile Page at August 27, 2008 8:31 AM

Michael - excellent article. Tbilisi really does look like a nice place.

I echo the comment of Mike Z: the wall posters shown in this article are all in English, even the anti-Putin obscenity is in English. Those messages are not directed to the locals in Tbilisi, they're directed partly at Europe but mostly at the US. Are they the work of Patrick Worms?

I.S. - In Europe and in the Middle East most stores and advertisements include some information in English. When you're in an area where many languages are spoken, and when you want a lot of people to understand your message, English is the language of choice.

I'm sure their Coke ads, dress shops and shoe stores contain some information written in English too. Is that the work of Patrick Worms?

Posted by: maryatexitzero Author Profile Page at August 27, 2008 8:31 AM

T/D,

I do not wish you bad and I am well aware of ills Russia is suffering from and facing. But if you think I love you more than I love myself you are mistaking.
On 08/08/2008 Russia proved to be a threat to me (I actually got scared even though I am sitting safely in the middle of the US), which effectively made all your concerns nil and void for me.

If you want to make it right, swallow your pride, get out of all of Georgia including Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Ask Russian and Georgian 'peacekeepers' be replaced with international force and let local referendums decide without interference from either side. Stop treating Tatars and other minorities like 'chyrka' (like 'unter mench' for the rest of us), make them equals, show respect and hope to be paid in kind.
As for your friendship offer, personal friendship with Russians? - yes and I do, friendship with today's Russia? - no. Sorry, may be later.

Posted by: leo Author Profile Page at August 27, 2008 8:38 AM

Ask Russian and Georgian 'peacekeepers' be replaced with international force and let local referendums decide without interference from either side

there is one slight problem: Unless Michael made a mistake Abkhazia was only 20% Abkhaz and 60% Georgians with the other 20% mixed, yet they have taken one huge chuck of land, including most of the seafront. So unless they restore to how it was before the war begun it's extremely unfair to GA.

Posted by: nameless-fool Author Profile Page at August 27, 2008 12:16 PM

Shevardnadze

I have a hard time believing someone is unbiased and informed when he or she can't keep straight who the leader is. If someone called Bush "Nixon" or Putin "Stalin" or Sarkozy "Chirac," I'd feel the same.

You know what I'm sayin'

You're saying that it's better for people to be enslaved under a totalitarian master than free after a brutal war. You're not the only one who feels this way, but you might as well come right out and say it.

Anyway, is it just me, or does this situation remind anyone else of the Six-Day War, in which the tiny nation was accused of starting a war against an enormous military complex, such accusations ignoring the armies amassing to destroy it as the war began? In both cases, there's a mess coming out of it, with territories under the de facto control of the winner, unrecognized by the rest of the world. In this case, however, it wasn't the underdog who came out on top.

Posted by: calbear Author Profile Page at August 27, 2008 1:05 PM

"Abkhazia was only 20% Abkhaz and 60% Georgians with the other 20% mixed, yet they have taken one huge chuck of land, including most of the seafront. So unless they restore to how it was before the war begun it's extremely unfair to GA."

If I am not mistaking this is exactly what international law says. Demographical picture must be restored to closest level possible before referendum can begin.

Posted by: leo Author Profile Page at August 27, 2008 2:11 PM

"Shevardnadze

I have a hard time believing someone is unbiased and informed when he or she can't keep straight who the leader is. If someone called Bush "Nixon" or Putin "Stalin" or Sarkozy "Chirac," I'd feel the same."

And you will be wrong. I see myself easily making this kind mistake simply because name of Saakashvili is not known to me to the level of the name of Shevardnadze.

Comparison with Six-day war is incorrect as well.
First (unimportant) difference. Bigger started (responded?) war against smaller.
Second (important) difference. War was started over its own territory.
Third (important) difference. Third (even bigger) party (illegally?) intervened and turned things around (temporarily?).

Posted by: leo Author Profile Page at August 27, 2008 2:25 PM

Eliot,

That report by Larisa Sotieva is part of Russian propaganda.
'High in the sky I saw five steel-coloured planes' - Georgian air forces does not have 5 bombarder jets. Georgian air forces probably does not have 5 qualified pilots either.

'As I was studying them, they formed a line like geese and plunged towards the ground' - Georgian pilots cannot do such figures in the sky. They simply are not qualified enough.

This person is either delibaretly trying to mislead the reader, or has messed up Georgian jets with Russian jets which bombed Tskhinvali on 8th and 9th August, no-stop.

Posted by: Xavi Author Profile Page at August 27, 2008 2:32 PM

BINGO!
Claim made in this piece about current Georgia's Minister of Defense (that he is Ossetian) very well reflects the quality of entire report. Everebody in Tbilisi knows that Davit Kezerashvili is not Ossetian, as well as he's not even Georgian. He is Jewish.
Small advice to the author - use Wikipedia, if you lack the wish to check such simple facts
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Davit_Kezerashvili

Posted by: mazur49 Author Profile Page at August 27, 2008 3:02 PM

I see myself easily making this kind mistake

Glasnost made it over and over again. I'm not saying that makes the his or her case incorrect, but it certainly casts doubt on the claim that Glasnost is the expert and Totten is a useful idiot who "swallowed some dubious hooks."

Comparison with Six-day war is incorrect as well

I did not say they were identical, merely that there were certain commonalities, the most notable being that, while the conventional wisdom is that the small nation fired the first shot, the fact is that they were forced to do so due to an existential threat (although I suppose it might be debatable whether Russia would have conquered all of Georgia, half of Georgia, or just those parts which were "independent" of Georgia). I agree that there are those two important differences you mentioned, but history doesn't repeat itself; it just often rhymes (as Twain noted).

Posted by: calbear Author Profile Page at August 27, 2008 3:45 PM

It seems most of the posters (bloggers) are straying from Michael Totten's point which was that the Main Stream Press got the essential story twisted. He then gave examples. The Wall Street Journal (hardly part of the main stream press) gave some history indicating that this territorial tension goes back to Tamurlane, with later Czarist and now modern pushing and shoving. It's been going on too long to separate which side started which century's tragic events. It now seems that the problem for us laypeople is to seek, sort and digest the truth from all of the medias' blizzard of "coverage". Michael Totten seems to be off to the best start. He's an independent.

Posted by: Morningside Author Profile Page at August 27, 2008 3:59 PM

"He's an independent".
I think these sentence is incomplete. It should look like
"He's an independent and it's the main reason why he asked for commentaries only Georgians or those who support them".

Posted by: mazur49 Author Profile Page at August 27, 2008 4:17 PM

Mike,

So what do you think happened to and what can be done about the site being occasionally inaccessible?

And I hope you will have an opportunity to interview all parties of the conflict, in order to get a broader picture (if not in order to pacify the readership).

Thanks!

Simon

Posted by: Simon Hawkin Author Profile Page at August 27, 2008 5:55 PM

Some confirmation on facts from:

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/af25400a-739d-11dd-8a66-0000779fd18c.html

Also three points:

1. I would guess Michael included the photos of anti-Russian posters, etc., mainly to show the mood in Tbilisi.

2. Keep in mind that Michael revealed all of his sources, which for now are Georgian. I think anyone reading this article understands that there may be some bias. Hey, Michael even states that he is wary of those on the state payroll.

3. I am still very curious about the speed of the Russians, especially how they managed to get Chechen paramilitaries, their navy, etc. into Georgia so quickly. Maybe some parallel with Kosovo can be made...how long did it take the US to get sorties running? This is with airbases all over Germany, Italy, etc.

Posted by: Harun Author Profile Page at August 27, 2008 7:29 PM

"He's an independent and it's the main reason why he asked for commentaries only Georgians or those who support them".

Hmmmm, maybe its because he's in Tbilisi now, and not in South Ossetia or Russia? You wonder?

Has Russia finally let journalists have free range in S. Ossetia yet?

Posted by: Harun Author Profile Page at August 27, 2008 7:31 PM

"He's an independent and it's the main reason why he asked for commentaries only Georgians or those who support them".

Mazur, go there so you fight off the Chechen and other Russian thugs and allow Michael to get in Ossetia or Abkhazia. I hope he to the other side as well, but he was honest about who he interviewed, you make of it all you want.

From an article titled: "Georgia war was in South Ossetia, but Abkhazia's the prize":
"Earlier this month, while the heaviest fighting of the Russia-Georgia war raged 150 miles away, separatists from Abkhazia, a pro-Russian enclave of Georgia on the Black Sea, burst into the Georgian farming village of Gunmuhuri and raised their flag....Russia has long sponsored the Abkhaz regime in the hope of annexing the ruggedly beautiful region, once a favored vacation spot for Soviet leaders. Roughly the size of Delaware, it boasts a 150-mile Black Sea shoreline and lies just 25 miles south of the Russian city of Sochi, the site of the 2014 Winter Olympics."
http://www.kansascity.com/449/story/769754.html
Now, in Abkhazia alone, they have artificially carved an area as large as Kosovo, but with just 150,000-200,000 people. (Kosovo has over 2 million) Posted by: nameless-fool Author Profile Page at August 27, 2008 7:45 PM

Leo,
You wrote "on 08/08/2008 Russia proved to be a threat to me (I actually got scared even though I am sitting safely in the middle of the US)". To make it clear you are scared by two-week conflict happened in country about 6000 miles away which killed less than 1000 humans.
Now try to imagine what Russians sitting in the midlle of Russia feel about Iraq. Baghdad is 1600 miles from Moscow, and only 586 miles from Tbilisi. Conflict there is lasting already 5 years and claimed more than half a million lives.
So if you feel threatened, they are should be proportionally terrified. But it's not end of the story. If we also take in this formula Afganistan war, rockets to be stationed in Poland, and overall balance of military power(Russia ten times behind US in terms of military budget) we could quite obviously see that an absolute pole of fear on this planet is in Kremlin.
Someone may probably argue that America is not going to attack Russia, and all such calculations is nothing but a part of Russian 'paranoia'. If so then what the difference between your fear of 'imerialistic' Russia and Russian fear of 'encirclement'? So far after reading your comment I see only that Russian 'paranoia' are not so exclusively Russian.

Posted by: mazur49 Author Profile Page at August 27, 2008 8:05 PM

Michael Totten has plenty of groupies commenting in his blog. To anyone who is familiar with the Caucasus situation, though, it's clear that he was much too gullible in buying the spin of Worms and Goltz. In addition, he was defensively thin-skinned in his reaction to Joshua Foust, a very intelligent, well informed and fair-minded man who, among other things, is critical of Russia's government.

Interestingly, few people here are commenting on the awful performance of the Georgian Army. Perhaps the Russian Army improved in the last ten years, but this conflict in Georgia was not much of a test of combat capabilities. Yes, it moved troops better than before, but as far as the fighting itself, the Georgians folded much too quickly for the Russians to be tested. Under the same conditions and with same equipment, if instead of Georgians they were Chechens, how would have things developed? The amount of pristine equipment that the Georgians abandoned without a fight is staggering. It was fortunate for them that the Russian Army didn't pursue and destroyed them.

In any event, there has been just too much silly talk about Russia wanting to conquer Georgia, about a new expansionist Russia, etc, etc. It just shows ignorance of the reality of Russia. Even if Russia wanted to expand aggressively, it simply could not. Russia's demographic situation is not conducive for such adventures.

Posted by: KolyaV Author Profile Page at August 27, 2008 8:27 PM

nameless-fool, Harun,

I guess it not anymore too dangerous to go there if FT already managed that.

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/af25400a-739d-11dd-8a66-0000779fd18c.html

Posted by: mazur49 Author Profile Page at August 27, 2008 8:31 PM

"Someone may probably argue that America is not going to attack Russia, and all such calculations is nothing but a part of Russian 'paranoia'. If so then what the difference between your fear of 'imerialistic' Russia and Russian fear of 'encirclement'? So far after reading your comment I see only that Russian 'paranoia' are not so exclusively Russian."

I never implied it was exclusively Russian. I just like mine better and I never said I am fair.

To add. In difference to US Russia is wounded animal ready to prance at anybody or anything just to show they it still got it. Sort of like US on 9/11. Except for US it was temporary state while for Russia it is state of mind.

If you understand Russian, here is Russia in all its glory, all 60 seconds of it: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-bSZmqCeiWU
Their life is crap and they are willing to ruin yours in order for them to feel better if only for a second.

Posted by: leo Author Profile Page at August 27, 2008 8:54 PM

Well, Mike, congradulations on nailing the low hanging fruit dead center. Now that you've defended your honor from Josh Foust's misguided ad hominem, any plans on addressing the substantive criticisms of your article?

The South Ossetian militia started it on August 6 when its fighters fired on Georgian peacekeepers and Georgian villages with weapons banned by the agreement hammered out between the two sides in 1994.

So, if Georgia, Ossetia, and Russia had all been violating various ceasefire agreeements for weeks and months beforehand, as Josh Foust gave some examples of, why is this particular ceasefire violation the 'beginning of the war'? Ey? Because that means Georgia was just reacting? Helplessly forced to bombard the capital of Ossetia with MRLS?

At the same time, the Russian military sent its invasion force bearing down on Georgia from the north side of the Caucasus Mountains on the Russian side of the border through the Roki tunnel and into Georgia.

Its "invasion force"? The invasion that was pre-emptively attacked in Russian-controlled territory, before it, you know, invaded something? So, if the Russian military has had troops in Ossetia, legally in Georgia, for years and then they start reinforcing said troops, how is that war? Reinforcing your troops = war? Is that like the US declaring war on the Soviet Union when we shipped extra guns to our section of Berlin, or what?

Now it may be some kind of ceasefire violation. But, as we've said, lots and lots of those.. August 6, August 2, July, June.. etc...

So what we have is that Russian actions that did not include actually firing at Georgians, moving into territory they already controlled, marked the beginning of "war", while Georgian troops
firing on Russians and charging into territory they didn't control was not the beginning of war.

Do I have that right?

Posted by: glasnost Author Profile Page at August 27, 2008 9:10 PM

For an informative post that gives you an interesting historical perspective, read the following by Doug Muir:

http://fistfulofeuros.net/afoe/history/georgia-bulgaria-and-the-second-balkan-war/

Posted by: KolyaV Author Profile Page at August 27, 2008 9:40 PM

My observations are both personal and prejudiced. I have never seen an official Russian pronouncement that was not a lie - except perhaps two or three during Yeltzin's time (and I am not sure about those). However, the same applies to any statement by any Georgian, whether official or not. Certainly, Saakashvili has been lying shamelessly (about a week ago, he anounced that we (US) were about to intervene militarily!). While some (or all) of the history described by Mr. Totten is correct, any corroboration supplied by ANY Georgian should be discounted, as well as any refutation coming from a Russian - any Russian. While dishonest people can be found among citizens of any country, it is different in that part of the world: they should NEVER be trusted. And I would say that Georgians (if anything) are even worse than Russians - which is not easy! Of course, by a "Russian" or a "Georgian" I mean a Russian from Russia or a Georgian from Georgia, as opposed to an American (or a German, or a Frenchman, etc.) with a Russian or Georgian name.

Posted by: lordcanning Author Profile Page at August 27, 2008 9:46 PM

KolyaV: Obviously, you are right: Russia is in no position to undertake foreign adventures and conquests. But when did this prevent an attempt at such adventures? Russia in 1914 was about as ill-prepared for war as possible; it entered the war (to protect Serbia from a much-deserved thrashing!) - and thereby self-destructed. Germany in 1939 was utterly unprepared for war - and we know what happened.

Modern Russia - Hmmm... we shall see what we shall see, but I am glad I am not a Russian (or a Georgian, for that matter!)

Posted by: lordcanning Author Profile Page at August 27, 2008 10:03 PM

Thanks for another great report MJT. One of the best you've done.

Posted by: rsnyder Author Profile Page at August 27, 2008 10:06 PM

Leo,
'Except for US it was temporary state while for Russia it is state of mind'. If it's true they definitely have pretty hard historic reasons for that as well as we should never forget that there is no anything more permanent than 'temporary state'.

Posted by: mazur49 Author Profile Page at August 27, 2008 11:14 PM

Michael isn't claiming to know "the truth"; he's claiming to have interviewed people in Georgia, with some commentary on how their words agree with his observations from inside Georgia and from abroad. If the Russian-controlled regions were in any way near safe and/or accessible, Michael would be interviewing the people in there, but he's just a tad blocked by a huge, brutal military in a police (pseudo-)state lacking basic freedoms.

Also, when one group tells one story while the other can't get its story straight, it's natural for one to believe the former - not always correct, but natural.

Posted by: calbear Author Profile Page at August 27, 2008 11:31 PM

lordcanning,
Thank you for your posts. They helped me to formulate one very interesting paradox.
In first you say Russians are not trustworthy. In second you mentioned that in 1914 ill-prepared Russia put at risk its very existence to protect ally Serbia from Austrian agression. If you mean it was irrational act I would completely agree. Russian barbarians simply did what they promised. Casus foederis.
You also probably know that as a result of that war Serbia had aquired huge territory (including Croatia, Bosnia, Slovenia, etc.) and formed Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes later known as Yugoslavia.
Actions of American military superpower which is presumably much more trustworthy are also much more rational. In 2008 when Russia trashed Georgia it did nothing to protect its ally , all promises and beautiful words turned to be empty. As a result Georgia lost two key provinces.
In other words, alliances with 'worse' partners are much more profitable than alliances with 'better' ones.

Posted by: mazur49 Author Profile Page at August 28, 2008 12:13 AM

LEO -

Noone is "smacking Russia around" militarily or any other fin way... do you think Russia in the end gives a shit if they get kicked out of NATO? lol...
Russia's got trillions in oil Europe isn't going to do a dam thing... on top of the fact that Europe is a bunch of you know whats... Perhaps Javier Solana can fly out and talk to Putin as him and his comrades laugh at the pathetic self impt bureacratic blowhard... they could tell each other in Russian -
"Can you believe even the Jews have to listen to this idiot!"

Noones going to do 1 thing against Russia... and certainly noone is going to "smack them around" in any way shape or form.. the only country that can stand up to them is us and we are wayyyyyyy busy right now.

The Cold War only took a temporary hiatus when Russia needed money.. now they're flush with cash and the KGB is still in control...

If you want to see Russia get its ass kicked go flick in an old Sean Connery James Bond flick... otherwise keep dreamin my man.

Mike

Posted by: Mike_Nargizian Author Profile Page at August 28, 2008 12:57 AM

FYI,

On the little spat with Josh Foust: I have been traveling and just arrived home. I didn't have time to write any kind of substantial response, and was peeved that I was lumped in with reporters who really didn't know anything about the conflict in advance. One doofus actually asked the foreign minister where Abkhazia is and how to spell it. When Foust said I self-identified as one of those doofus reporters, well, it didn't exactly endear me to him. I felt the need to write something even though I had no time to deal with it.

Now that I'm home I might write a substantive response, but only if it really seems worth it. I have a lot more real writing to do about Georgia and Azerbaijan.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at August 28, 2008 1:03 AM

This is by far the most I have seen of any article Michael has written where lots of people (particularly, lots of people who aren't usually here...hint) have shown up to say they're right, and that Michael and/or the folks he interviewed are wrong. (Except for glasnost, his response was as regular as clockwork).
I can't help but think that there's a coincidence, in that it involves Russia's bullshit in this article this time.
For those watching closely, I feel like this story served as less of a surprise and more of a clarification.

PS - Excellent reporting Michael.

Posted by: Joe Author Profile Page at August 28, 2008 4:07 AM

leo: To US Russia is wounded animal ready to prance at anybody or anything just to show they it still got it

I don't think the U.S. would be intimidated by the Russian army prancing. Quite the opposite, I imagine.

Maybe you're referring to the superior quality of their ballet dancers?

Unlike the Russian military, they've still got it--and like to show it off.

Posted by: Edgar Author Profile Page at August 28, 2008 4:58 AM

Mike_Nargizian @ August 28, 2008 12:57 AM,

Noone is "smacking Russia around" militarily or any other fin way...

I am glad you changed your mind.

do you think Russia in the end gives a shit if they get kicked out of NATO? lol...

Actually yes, they very much do. And it is not because NATO is so important to them as organization with opinion. It is because for their self-importance reasons. I am sure you do not like to be treated with disrespect yourself. Especially when it comes from entity you do not regard too highly.

Russia's got trillions in oil

Not even close. They got couple of extra kopeek to spare and decided they can buy whole world. Their existing mineral mines are to be depleted in about 10-15 years, existing oil wells in about 20-25 years. If they will not begin new development they are in deep doo-doo and they know it. And knowing that they are not doing anything about it.

Europe isn't going to do a dam thing... on top of the fact that Europe is a bunch of you know whats...

They do not need to. Europeans know mother nature always takes its course.

Perhaps Javier Solana can fly out and talk to Putin as him and his comrades laugh at the pathetic self impt bureacratic blowhard... they could tell each other in Russian - "Can you believe even the Jews have to listen to this idiot!"

I am sure you did not mean anything by this "even Jews" stuff.

Noones going to do 1 thing against Russia... and certainly noone is going to "smack them around" in any way shape or form.. the only country that can stand up to them is us and we are wayyyyyyy busy right now.

You already said you will not. As to the rest. I suspect Russians will soon start losing money more often than not. That is if they will still keep refusing to play the ball.

The Cold War only took a temporary hiatus when Russia needed money.. now they're flush with cash and the KGB is still in control...

Again, Russians do not have anywhere near enough money to run Cold War. If anything Russians need our help rather than to be picked on or they may disappear as a state relatively soon.
They already succeeded some land in Siberia to China and had done it quietly in hopes nobody would notice (Russians call it good will gesture, you be the judge). If anybody remembers Damansky incident few decades back when Chinese wanted to take few Amur islands by force and were beaten off.

If you want to see Russia get its ass kicked go flick in an old Sean Connery James Bond flick... otherwise keep dreamin my man.

What was that about?

Posted by: leo Author Profile Page at August 28, 2008 6:16 AM

"I don't think the U.S. would be intimidated by the Russian army prancing."

Then you are fool.
Sure Russian military may be not as powerful as that of US. But if you think US will come out unscaved think again.

Posted by: leo Author Profile Page at August 28, 2008 6:24 AM

Look, it's very simple. Russian tools, go home and tell your masters that there is no more Near Abroad. Not for you. You don't really need it and you absolutely cannot be trusted with it. It is necessary that you adopt our approach. Nobody but the West and specifically America can save you from the future. Whatever throbs you can induce in the price of oil are insignificant.

Look at the US. If we had all your energy resources plus ours it would hardly make a difference in our economy. Take Russia's oil away and you would all be serfs. Chai, or maybe whores, would be your biggest export. Our export economy is bigger than your entire economy.

You have to get beyond a resource extraction economy. You have no excuses. You have everything in your hands. And then you kill the golden goose! The totalitarian approach is yielding you only short-term gains. Isn't it in the Russian character to think ahead like a chess grandmaster? You will pay for your offenses. Keep committing them, and the payment will grow.

You face no significant military danger from the West. Stop pretending. The people who are going to rape your wives and kill your children and take your land are all to the south and east of you. You must know that. In fifty years Iran will have a greater population than you, never mind China. The notion of your being friends with Iran is absurd fantasy and no one knows it better than Iran.

The great pity is that there is so much to save of the Rus. Even with its diminished population and world standing we really want to help. Sometimes in field surgery, as in the case of an amputation without anesthesia, the patient resists. But if it is necessary to save his life, the operation must proceed. If only the patient would allow the mask over his face, it wouldn't hurt so...

Here's a football to kick around: let all the SOs who want to move to NO. Buy them homesteads and pay their way. Look at the tiny populations involved, this is comparable to the evacuation of a city. Russia's, and the USSR's, territorial jiggery-pokery comprise a Gordian knot that perhaps should be simply cut.

Incidentally, Europeans seem to think Americans are entirely brain-dead when they suggest that if a place is no good to live in anymore, move! America is entirely comprised of people who held to that creed. An old home place is great but when there's nothing there for you anymore, you move on.

No doubt this could have also been applied to Yugoslavia and to other places, with varying merits. But really, this is just too easy. We are talking about areas the size of US States and populations the size of small cities. There is plenty of room in North Ossetia for all the unhappy SOs, Abkhazis, whatever.

For that matter there is unlimited room in Russia. And if this is really a move to regain Russophile populations (white Russophiles, of course, I think they have enough SDD tribesmen for their own taste), they would be best off in Russia. It would be so much cleaner.

Even better, move them to Siberia to face off against the Chinese infiltrators. You've done it before, that's how they got where they are now!

You big historians! Remember the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact? Russia shouldn't deal with the devil.

We're not going to hurt you, Russia. We may be intending to fuck you a little, but we're not going to hurt you and the whole idea is that you enjoy it too. And it's not like you're a virgin or have a reputation to protect. At the moment you are being paid almost as much for your exports of blondes as for oil.

Meanwhile, ultimately you can scratch our faces and we will back off. Those other guys?

Those other guys are reavers (if you have ever watched Firefly or Serenity), they will rape kill and eat you, not necessarily in that order. And no, they won't bring you flowers.

Posted by: Nichevo Author Profile Page at August 28, 2008 6:28 AM

Re: Spat with Josh Foust

Michael,

Foust is obviously smart and well-informed, but as you can see from my back-and-forth with him in the comments to his post, he never makes a mistake. If that's true about satellite imagery, it likely holds for ad hominems, as well. So it's probably more profitable to move on to substantial issues. Sarcasm aside, glasnost (Aug. 27, 9:10pm) mentions some, as have other posters.

My thoughts on the events immediately preceding the Georgian assault on the evening of August 7th:

  • There are very few good maps of South Ossetia that have been identified on the web, that show village names, the road network, the topography, and areas of Georgian and Ossetian control (ethnic Georgian and Ossetian populations). UNOSAT has maps of the Tshkinvali area. The 6/7/07 ICG report has the Joint Peace Keeping Force's identification of ethnic-Georgian villages and areas under Georgian government control. Most news reports mention the reporter visiting village X, but it's impossible to figure out where X is.
  • As a result of the agreements of the early '90s, there were Russian, Ossetian, Georgian, and OSCE peacekeepers (sneer quotes probably merited in some cases) at many key sites in South Ossetia. For the most part, they haven't been heard from. The accounts of OSCE officers would be especially valuable in establishing a factual timeline.
  • There were supposed to be JPKF posts at the southern entrance to the Roki tunnel and at the bridge at Didi Gupta. This bridge, 15 km north of Tshkinvali on the P-2 road, is the chokepoint that Saakashvili claims the Georgians were rushing north to try to destroy or control. Were peacekeepers there? What are their accounts of when major elements (150 armored vehicles) of the 58th Army transited from North Ossetia into South Ossetia?

... continues

Posted by: AMac Author Profile Page at August 28, 2008 6:50 AM

... continuing

  • The Georgian narrative hasn't (to my knowledge) explained the military logic of the assault on Tshkinvali on the evening of 7 August. There are many credible accounts by Russians and ethnic Ossetians in the city being bombarded by Georgian artillery, including Grad rockets, from the surrounding hills. The Georgian army then (briefly) occupied the city. The main road north from Tshkinvali to Didi Gupta (Route P-2) runs through ethnic Georgian villages; Ossetians apparently had to use a minor north-south road that parallels the P-2 to the east. If the key for the Georgians was to reach Didi Gupta, why didn't they establish blocking positions and focus on proceeding north? Perhaps the Georgians were recklessly overconfident and that "establishing constitutional order" quote should be taken at face value?
  • The UNOSAT maps show extensive damage to the villages north of Tshkinvali, most inflicted after the Georgians were repulsed. Josh Foust seems to claim that some or most of this damage was the result of the Georgian barrages of Aug. 7, which seems unlikely. But how far north along the P-2 did the Georgians manage to get? How much of this damage might be due to fighting between the Georgians and the Russans/Ossetians?
  • The FT has made an ambitous effort to reconstruct a timeline around August 7, Countdown in the Caucasus: Seven days that brought Russia and Georgia to war (pub. 8/26/08). They quote a key US diplomat:
    Matthew Bryza, a State department official who is considered the US point man on Georgia, corroborates Mr Saakashvili’s version of events. He says he was told the same information, as events were unfolding, in a series of phone discussions with Georgian leadership on August 7 and 8. “I was in fact told that Russian armour was indeed already moving toward the Georgian village of Kurta from the Roki tunnel before the Georgians attacked Tskhinvali,” he says in an email.

    He was told the Georgian version in phone calls with Georgian officials. What information does (did) the U.S. have from satellites, or intercepts of 58th Army radio traffic, or humint? Do independent sources support or contradict the Georgian timeline?
  • The (long) essay by Aamerican academic Kenneth Anderson, Georgia, South Ossetia, and Abkhazia (pub. 8/24/08) is probably the best background piece I've read. Anderson connects the current stage of the conflict to the events of the early 1990s, especially the secession of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, and the ethnic cleansing practiced by militias of all sides at the time.

Links to UNOSAT's maps and ICG Report No 183 can be found in my earlier comments on this thread.

Posted by: AMac Author Profile Page at August 28, 2008 6:52 AM

Another view of the conflict timeline by journalists in Tblisi, Vladikavkaz and London:

How the Georgian War Began

http://www.iwpr.net/?p=crs&s=f&o=346346&apc_state=henpcrs

Posted by: Eliot Author Profile Page at August 28, 2008 7:02 AM
A detailed account of August 6-8 is offered by the Institute for War and Peace Reporting, How the Georgian War Began (pub. 8/22/08).
A Georgian government statement issued shortly after 2 am [on Aug. 8] ... added a new detail, which was later to be repeated by Saakashvili and others, saying, “According to the information we have, hundreds of armed men and pieces of equipment have crossed through the Roki Tunnel under the Russian-Georgian border.” ...

The timing of the Russian intervention is crucial. The Russian 58th army had been conducting exercises in North Ossetia near to the other side of the four-kilometre Roki tunnel linking North and South Ossetia. The Georgians now say they were acting pre-emptively to head off a Russian military intervention, while the Ossetian and Russian version is that the 58th army responded only after the Georgian attack began.

On August 14, Georgian prime minister Lado Gurgenidze [said], “At around 6 am the Georgian forces blew up the Kurta bridge (about three km north of Tskhinvali). A column of the Russian troops that had entered the previous night from the Roki tunnel was there, so a couple of their vehicles were blown up as well… Think about how many hours of preparation, assembly, then marching, it would take for that column, moving at that speed on rugged terrain to be at the Kurta bridge at six in the morning...

Many of these assertions are disputed. For example, an IWPR reporter who visited the area last week did not see any destroyed bridges in the Kurta area.

Independent evidence about when the lead elements of the 58th Army entered the Roki Tunnel will be crucial in figuring out which side took the final provocative step on the evening of August 7th, and why.

Some accounts have the Georgians focusing on a bridge at Kurta (~3 km north of Tshkinvali); others on a bridge at Didi Gupta (~12 km further north). Viewing UNOSAT images, there is an alternate (Ossetian-controlled) north-south road 1 km to the east of Kurta, so it does not look like much of a crucial choke point. Did someone mis-speak? Was Kurta to be a fallback delaying point for the Georgians, once they failed to reach Didi Gupta?

Many questions.

Posted by: AMac Author Profile Page at August 28, 2008 7:31 AM

IMO this guy Foust has a valid point: the credibility of so-called "regional experts" is often questionable.

At the same time, he made the point in a pretty obnoxious way.

Also, producing a "balanced" report (i.e. getting the Russian side of the story) is not so easy. Most journalists were not willing to risk their lives to get an interview with the Russian army while the conflict was going on, and MJT was no exception.

Anyway, I don't recall MJT claiming that he was going to write something impartial in the first place. There's nothing wrong with taking sides if you are honest about it.

Posted by: Edgar Author Profile Page at August 28, 2008 8:10 AM

Edgar, I agree that Foust made some good points and that there is nothing wrong about taking sides as long as you don't claim otherwise. As I see it, one of the problems with Michael's post was the presumptuous title itself, "The Truth About Russia in Georgia". Perhaps Michael meant to be either ironic, provocative, or both. To me, though, it sounded too self-assured and arrogant, as if Michael himself had no doubts that what he was presenting was the TRUTH. In any event, in a couple of months or so, once folks had time to calmly analyze the available information from BOTH sides our picture of what happened in South Ossetia will be much clearer and accurate.

Posted by: KolyaV Author Profile Page at August 28, 2008 8:57 AM

Edgar: Most journalists were not willing to risk their lives to get an interview with the Russian army while the conflict was going on, and MJT was no exception.

I tried to get to the other side of the front line, so to speak, and was thrown back by the Russian military. I'll write about that in my next piece.

Those who complain about the fact that I didn't quote anyone in South Ossetia don't have the slightest idea what reporters have to go through to do their job. I would have embedded with the Russians if they would have let me, and I would have quoted them at length. It would have been really damn interesting, but it wasn't an option for me.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at August 28, 2008 8:57 AM

I've been following this discussion closely and it's very interesting.

Michael, I can't wait to hear about your attempt to cross into South Ossetia in your next piece. But could you explain what you mean by 'thrown back'? Did they actually assault you?

Posted by: JohnDakota Author Profile Page at August 28, 2008 9:44 AM

Thanks Michael for this comprehensive report that gives for many readers a perspective on the Ossetia story.
But let me share my view on it, the view of Russian man who had known all the background before this report.

Let me start from "...With that, Georgia lost the propaganda war and the world believes Saakashvili started it." During the hot period of conflict I was in Europe and could observe the situation with CNN, BBC, Sky-news only. So I found, the fact of Georgian invasion was forgotten to the second day of conflict and nobody (except of some rare Russian experts) did not mention it. But at least 3 times a day I could see Saakashvili live with they speeches, in English (even on the square of Tbilisi), with EU flag, available all day long, saying a number of cliché that western people ready to understand. I'm not discussing in this para if all that was true. My point is to say that after Georgian army fully retreated in several days there was only a propaganda war and Misha fully won it with western media support. I could understand that it was the only chance of Saakashvili, but note that fact of Georgian aggression did not hamper his media victory.

Back to that 'fact of Georgian aggression'. For me it was very important who started it. Both side provoking each other and Ossetians were less controllable so they could did it easer - it's a fact. Both sides have they finger on the triggers, but even now, after reading your report, I'm sure - Saakashvili pull the trigger first.
'somebody sees those vehicles emerging from the Roki tunnel [into Georgia from Russia]...' and then Georgian decided to invade Ossetia to stop Russians - that's only your&Misha version. BTW, just note that it is still invasion in Ossetia, right? Who was that somebody? Or is it just another lie to excuse invasion? The fact I know is that Georgian tanks were in the city of Tshinvali before any Russian troops, they were burned by Ossetians and were staying there dead several days - but they should not been there at all! The fact is that official Russian peacekeepers were killed before any Russian tanks had come, and they were killed by Georgian bombs and bullets. There are some other minor facts, but for me the result is - Georgian pull on trigger first.

Let me say, I personally far from excuse of all action of Russian Government - it looks like Russians are the first who suffered from them. And I don't want to discuss here further movements (Georgia army destruction, Poti, 2 republics independence). After the war started it has its own logic and I hate any war. But as I saw even at the stage of conflict when Russian troops really defend Ossetians all western countries, all western media takes Georgian side. And all Cold War era cliché were extracted in a seconds! And a dozens of so called "experts" started to say their standard stupidity of 'Soviet Empire restoration', 'oil transit', bla-bla.

That was sudden crisis for many Westerns and their instinctive response was 'blame on Russia', no matter what happened. Look at the beginning of Michael's discussion with experts - Patrick Worms started with accusation of Soviet Empire "to keep its empire together was pitting ethnic groups against one another" with no reliable evidence, then he transfer it to Russia (after 1991) with the strange arguments (no argument, in fact). Why?

What I'm talking is that West (one more cliché!) push away Russia with such one-side opinion. And it gives so good argument to the Russian hawks - "enemies around us! we need to struggle!" They succeed anyway, stop helping them, be impartial!
I can understand without any geopolitics why West is on Saakashvili side - it is so understandable for them. He speaks English, and he speaks the words that you are ready to hear. You are ready to hear about 'Soviet Empire ambition', 'threat to the democratic neighbors', 'total control of oil transport', etc. Look at that posters - it is for you who read in English, not for Georgians or Russians. You want it - he has it!

Here and there in the comments there is some discussion about unpredictable Russia that is a threat to the democratic neighbors. And two motives - Russia should be punished and how defend others. But the fact is that those who worth to be punished are unreachable from outside. And by trying to hurt them you'll get them stronger, you'll get them support of majority inside the country.

Well, I don't ask you to understand Russian tanks in Budapest, Prague, or in Afghanistan (hmm...;) But it is important to understand that good neighbours relation is a road with two ways. Example - Ukraine. If you ban Russian language for the 50% of natively Russian population of Ukraine, celebrate SS veterans, steal the Russian gas and accuse Russia in all tragedy in history would you expect of more respect from Russia side? I love Ukraine cause I was born there, my parents and friends are there, so I'm worrying about Russia-Ukraine relation.
And I know the man who's old parents used to live in a Ossetian village near Tshinvali. He took them back to Russia like two years ago, but their house was hit by the shell this August, and it was most likely the Georgian shell. Do you think he is going to understand the reasons why Saakashvili moved to the Ossetia?

P.S. Sorry for that long muddle text and terrible English... "but I feel emotion!" © Misha S.

Posted by: Sergey Author Profile Page at August 28, 2008 10:04 AM

I don't like:
Annexation and occupation of all small countries from the great countries.

Posted by: bobo Author Profile Page at August 28, 2008 10:06 AM

"I don't like:
Annexation and occupation of all small countries from the great countries."

Good point bobo. I'm sure the South Ossetians agree with your sentiments. The vast majority of them don't to be part of Georgia and fought hard in the early 1990s so as not be part of it. Because of their struggle they have not been under Georgia since then, and that's why the South Ossetians fought hard against the Georgians a couple of weeks ago. They don't want to be part of Georgia. Similarly, the vast majority of Kosovars did not want to be part of either Serbia or Yugoslavia and they were ready to fight for it.

Am I claiming that Russia's hands are clean on this? No, I'm not. There no clean hands here, neither Georgian, Russian, American, Ossetian, Abkhazian.

Posted by: KolyaV Author Profile Page at August 28, 2008 10:40 AM

John Dakota: But could you explain what you mean by 'thrown back'? Did they actually assault you?

Oh dear, no, they didn't assault me. I didn't mean to imply that, sorry. The Russians were actually pretty friendly about the whole thing, and they let me through a lot more checkpoints than I expected.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at August 28, 2008 10:48 AM

KolyaV: There no clean hands here, neither Georgian, Russian, American, Ossetian, Abkhazian.

I can accept most of that statement, with one exception. Are American hands really dirty in this conflict? Really? No one on any side has been killed by Americans. Americans are providing humanitarian relief. That's it.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at August 28, 2008 10:54 AM
In today's Wall St. Journal, Saakashvili says:
"I got a call from the minister of defense that Russian tanks, some 200, were massing to enter Tskhinvali from North Ossetia... I ignored it at first, but reports kept coming in that they had begun to move forward. In fact, they had mobilized reserves several days ahead of time."
In the second paragraph of this post, Michael Totten wrote:
At the same time [i.e. on August 6], the Russian military sent its invasion force bearing down on Georgia from the north side of the Caucasus Mountains on the Russian side of the border through the Roki tunnel and into Georgia. This happened before Saakashvili sent additional troops to South Ossetia and allegedly started the war.
The Russian assertion is the the 58th Army was ready because it had been engaged in exercises, but that its armor only entered the Roki Tunnel after the Georgian attack on Tshkinvali began.

The Georgian claim related in paragraph 2 is that the Georgian attack was initiated as a response to the 58th Army's move through the tunnel.

Saakashvili's quote in the WSJ is ambiguous. He says that the Russian causus belli was massing tanks... moving forward... mobilized reserves. He doesn't say "passing South through the tunnel."

Was Saaksashvili's decision to move into South Ossetia a response to overt Russian aggression, or was it pre-emptive?

Key question: At what time on Aug. 7 or Aug. 8 did the first elements of the 58th Army enter the Roki Tunnel? Before or after the August 7 ~11 PM move of Georgian armor into South Ossetia?

Posted by: AMac Author Profile Page at August 28, 2008 12:13 PM

I am glad that at last I came across such formidable source of comprehensive information about war in Georgia.

There is only one moment that made me sad and awakened my astonishment, because I considered it well known to everyone who follows narrowly events in the Caucasus that Ingushs suffered exactly the same kind of ethnic cleansing in the hands of united Russian and Osetian forces in Prigorodny district in Northern Osetia in 1992 as Georgians are now exposed to by the same culprits. Here is the excerpt from the report which completely astonished me: "On the same day, irregulars – Ingush, Chechen, Ossetians, and Cossacks – start coming in and spreading out into the countryside but don't do anything".

This is a sheer lie and disinformation. No single Ingush, even deeprooted thugs, would never ever take osetian side in any conflict or quarrel, not to speak about war. And not a SINGLE Ingush have in reality been there on osetian side. In the contrary, of all northcaucasian nationalities that took part in conflicts on Georgian soil from 1992 there were only Ingushs that always fought on Georgian side. Besides, Ingushs are well aware of our common history with Georgian people, which dates back to the begining of the Georgian Kingdom in III BC , when first Georgian king Farnavaz married daughter of Dzurdzukos, Ingush people's legendary ancestor.

Yes, it's true that there were a lot of Chechens (so called Yamadaev's battalion "Vostok" and Kadyrov's militia),Osetians and Cossacks.

I suspect that such disinformation about Ingushs was intentionally provided by osetians , which still stay in Georgia, to worsen brotherly relations among Georgians and Ingushs, the only staunch ally of Georgia in Northern Caucasus.

Posted by: Gligvis Author Profile Page at August 28, 2008 12:44 PM

KolyaV;

Why did you feel the need to lump Americans in and suggest they have dirty hands? The most influence they've had in this conflict is Senator McCain denounce Russia. There isn't a single American boot on the ground. Not now, not when the fighting started, or while it was happening.

You might as well say America has dirty hands in bombings that happen in India, the persecution of Tibetans by China, and while we're at it the horrible image of penguins in the movie "march of the penguins."

Posted by: JohnDakota Author Profile Page at August 28, 2008 12:52 PM

Michael and John, when I wrote:

"Am I claiming that Russia's hands are clean on this? No, I'm not. There no clean hands here, neither Georgian, Russian, American, Ossetian, Abkhazian."

I didn't claim that America is directly responsible for some the blood spilled there. In that respect, obviously Georgians, Ossetians and Russians are the ones with blood on their hands.

But America's hands are not clean, though. They strongly supported Saakashvili as a democrat, when in the last couple of years his credentials as a democratic leader were becoming more and more questionable. The US was also not blind to the fact that the Ossetians have very good reasons for not wanting to be with Georgia. It may be hard to believe to some, but the Ossetians were less persecuted by the Russians than by the Georgians. In other words, the US, probably because of its own geopolitical concerns, started to paint this as a stark black and white issue in which Georgia was obviously in the right and Russia obviously in the wrong. The reality of it, however, is much messier and complicated. In addition, I doubt very much the US ever believed that Russia actually intended to conquer all of Georgia, take Tbilisi and so on (among other factors, the fairly modest number of Russian troops involved should have made that clear), but all this alarmist talk served America's interest.

(And let me do some preemption here: I dislike Putin and I deplore the way Russia dealt with Chechnya.)

Posted by: KolyaV Author Profile Page at August 28, 2008 1:26 PM

KolyaV;

What you just described wasn't exclusively American hands, but NATO hands. More accurately it's NATO opinion as they haven't participated in any events in Georgia. Are you surprised that NATO is in favour of democratic states? I would be surprised if you are.

If you want to claim people have dirty hands maybe you should look at the countries that have refused to recognize the South Ossetia referendums, or maybe the European countries that oversaw the last referendum vote but never ensured it was done in a way that would be internationally recognized. (Hint.. the US wasn't involved there either).

So again, why have you singled out America to say they've dirtied their hands by being friendly to Georgia? While at the same time absolving other major NATO members. This stinks of a 'blame america' for anything mentality.

Next I'm going to expect you'll claim (like Vladdy just did) that the US designed this whole conflict to favour John McCain.

Posted by: JohnDakota Author Profile Page at August 28, 2008 2:27 PM

Don't be ridiculous, John. I listed Georgia, Russia, Ossetia, Abkhazia and the US. And then I made it clear that although the US's hands are not clean, the US does not have the bloodied hands the other parties I mentioned. Yes, to be precise, I could have listed other parties. But I did list the most relevant ones for this discussion. And, by the way, I'm not a "blame America fist" type. Actually, I spoke out against such people plenty of times. This does not mean that the US is blameless. In addition, I'm not a "blame Russia first" type either.

Am I surprised that NATO supports democratic states? No, I'm not John. But I'm surprised that so many seem to be talking about Georgia as if it's a solid democracy. Georgia is not the democracy that people in the US seem to think it is. Saakashvili came to power in a popular wave tired of corruption and lack of transparency. During the last couple of years, though, Saakashvili has not been behaving as a great democrat at all. Check it out, it's not too hard to find out about it.

So why do I think the US's hands are dirty on this issue? Well, read again what I wrote. And, of course, there is plenty more. In any event, geopolitics is not a very moral business. There is plenty of hypocrisy masked behind noble sounded words. And yes, that applies to the US too. That's they way of the world.

Posted by: KolyaV Author Profile Page at August 28, 2008 2:53 PM

WSJ, opinion piece by a Melik Kaylan, "a New York-based writer who has reported often from Georgia," How the Georgian Conflict Really Started. A short piece, opening graphs follow:

'Anybody who thinks that Moscow didn't plan this invasion, that we in Georgia caused it gratuitously, is severely mistaken," President Mikheil Saakashvili told me during a late night chat in Georgia's presidential palace this weekend.

"Our decision to engage was made in the last second as the Russian tanks were rolling -- we had no choice," Mr. Saakashvili explained. "We took the initiative just to buy some time. We knew we were not going to win against the Russian army, but we had to do something to defend ourselves."

I had just returned from Gori, which was still under the shadow of Russian occupation. I'd learned there on the ground how Russia has deployed a highly deliberate propaganda strategy in this war. Some Georgian friends sneaked me into town unnoticed past the Russian armored checkpoints via a little used tractor path. We noted that, during the day, the tanks on Gori's streets withdrew from the streets to the hills. Apparently, the Russians thought this gave the impression, to any foreign eyewitnesses they chose to let through, of a town not so much occupied as stabilized and made peaceful.

However, if you stayed overnight after observers left, as I did with various locals, you could hear and glimpse the tanks in the dark growling back into town and roaming around. A serious curfew kicked in at sundown, and the streets turned instantly lethal, not least because the tanks allowed in marauding irregulars -- Cossacks, South Ossetians, Chechens and the like -- to do the looting in a town that the Russians had effectively emptied. Now that the Russians have made a big show of moving out in force -- but only to a point some miles to the other side of Gori toward South Ossetia -- they've left behind a resonating threat in the population's memory, a feeling they could return at any moment.

Posted by: Michael_B Author Profile Page at August 28, 2008 4:56 PM

Thought Questions:

If you were the leader of Georgia that was planning an offensive against S. Ossetia, would you do so while a large fraction of your armed forces were in Iraq?

Is the Roki tunnel open in the winter?

Where are those Chechen units normally based, and is it normal for them to be deployed outside of Chechenya?

The Russians completed a railroad to Abkhaz on July 30th or so. Nice timing to have need of it within two weeks of completion.

When was the Georgian president scheduled to leave for Beijing? If the Russians had planned the incidents, maybe they had hoped they would escalte more slowly allowing the Russians to come down into S. Ossetia and perhaps even take Tbilisi while the Georgian president was in the Olympics and then deny his re-entry.

Lots of questions, but I guess its also possible that the whole crisis was simply a series of escalations that spiraled out of control.

Interesting article on trade in S. Ossetia:

http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/sais_review/v025/25.1freese.pdf

Posted by: Harun Author Profile Page at August 28, 2008 6:27 PM

Thanks for spending all that time interviewing Georgia's PR flack. The key point in the interview is that even Georgia's paid PR guy can't deny that it was Georgia's ground forces that crossed the 17-year-old Georgia-South Ossetia border first. In other words, those Georgian geniuses started a tank war with Russia!

I would hardly be surprised if it turns out that Putin had an agent provocateur inside the Georgian government to get them to do something that stupid. But, clearly, the U.S. shouldn't get into a military alliance with the fools running Georgia.

Posted by: Steve Sailer Author Profile Page at August 29, 2008 12:48 AM

Key question: At what time on Aug. 7 or Aug. 8 did the first elements of the 58th Army enter the Roki Tunnel? Before or after the August 7 ~11 PM move of Georgian armor into South Ossetia?

AMac, I applaud your professional approach to this topic, but I don't think this is as critical a question as you've presented it. Yes, it would be good to know the precise order of events, but:

Let's say for the sake of argument that the 58th Army entered the tunnel first. Unless I'm missing something, the tunnel is transit between Russia and South Ossetia. So even if the Russian troops moved through the tunnel first, they're still moving only into Russia-controlled South Ossetia until they've gone past Tskinvali.

Sending a bunch of tanks into through the tunnel Russia's half of South Ossetia might be a threatening buildup, a provocative statement, but doesn't seem like an act of further territorial acquisition. Unless I misunderstanding something here.

So it's a choice between Georgia initiated the hot war and - Georgia initiated the hot war.

Posted by: glasnost Author Profile Page at August 29, 2008 4:54 AM

Comrade Glasnost: Unless I misunderstanding something here.

You're missing something alright. South Ossetia is not part of Russia. It is part of Georgia. Or at least it was until Russia carved it off during this war that you seem strangely unbothered by.

Russian peacekeepers were there, but so were Georgian peacekeepers. The region was mixed Georgian-Ossetian -- until now because the Russians "cleansed" it of Georgians.

Abkhazia was also a majority-Georgian region until the Georgians were kicked out of almost all of it.

It is frankly amazing to me that you complain about the Americans in Iraq but not the Russians in Georgia.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at August 29, 2008 5:02 AM

Re. Harun's thought questions (6:27pm):

Is the Roki tunnel open in the winter?

Completed (at great expense) by Soviets in 1985, all-weather access roads, so presumably, Yes.

Where are those Chechen [sic] units normally based?

58th Army HQ is at Vladikavkaz (capital of North Ossetia).

Glasnost (4:54am) --

Good point. However, while we can disagree on the gravity of the provocation of sending ~150 armored vehicles across the sovereign border, a provocation it would still be.

I recall reading (but have no URL to offer) that the early-'90s armistice included a provision that the Russians would limit their presence in South Ossetia to agreed-on peacekeeping forces. Since that armistice assuredly did not allow for free entry of the 58th Army, that transit did represent a crossing of the Rubicon.

So the question remains, which came first, the Aug. 7 11:30pm Georgian thrust northwards, or the 58th Army's entry into the Roki tunnel?

Another tidbit -- as of July 9, 2008, the OSCE was manning an active monitoring post at the key location of Didi Gupta.

The silence of the OSCE as to the events of August 5/6 to August 8 is becoming troubling. Why aren't they filling in the blanks as far as the events of those days?

It also seems likely to me that the U.S. is in possession of satellite images that would immensely clarify events. In other crises, the U.S. has, however reluctantly, released such information. Why not this time? Why haven't there been calls from the aggrieved parties (and journalists and area experts) for such data?

Posted by: AMac Author Profile Page at August 29, 2008 5:28 AM

KolyaV,

Ridiculous? Your argument gymnastics are the only ridiculous things here. You've been obfuscating, and grasping at ways to blame the US in an conflict happening over 10 THOUSAND Kilometers away from US soil, and in a region that the US has no presence (military, or diplomatic).

The only thing you've said that earns America it's 'dirty hands' (after MJT and I called you on your BS)is by having played geopolitics with Georgia. Well gawwwly, you don't say. A NATO member has a foreign policy on a country that's been aggressively pursuing NATO membership for years? Paint me shocked! What you've neglected to say was what specific part of American foreign policy in Georgia is so wrong. I'm going to take a stab at it; You have no clue, but you want to blame the US none the less so you're saying 'geopolitics' and hope I'll roll over.


Posted by: JohnDakota Author Profile Page at August 29, 2008 5:49 AM

A footnote to the back-and-forth between Josh Foust and me at Registan.net regarding his comment on this thread (August 26, 2008 8:18 PM):

"... (for example, satellite imagery suggests the buildings Georgia destroyed in South Ossetia were primarily residential)"

Georgia: Satellite Images Show Destruction, Ethnic Attacks. Russia Should Investigate, Prosecute Crimes
(New York, August 29, 2008) – Recent satellite images released by the UN program UNOSAT confirm the widespread torching of ethnic Georgian villages inside South Ossetia, Human Rights Watch said today. Detailed analysis of the damage depicted in five ethnic Georgian villages shows the destruction of these villages around the South Ossetian capital, Tskhinvali, was caused by intentional burning and not armed combat. “Human Rights Watch researchers personally witnessed Ossetian militias looting and burning down ethnic Georgian villages during their research in the area,” said Rachel Denber, deputy director of the Europe and Central Asia division of Human Rights Watch. “These satellite images indicate just how widespread the torching of these villages has been in the last two weeks.”
Mr. Foust linked to a map from this UNOSAT dataset as evidence of Georgian destructiveness in South Ossetia. Posted by: AMac Author Profile Page at August 29, 2008 8:10 AM

Two Pavel Felgengauer's articles:
Cette opération a été planifiée de longue date -
http://www.lefigaro.fr/international/2008/08/18/01003-20080818ARTFIG00210-cette-operation-a-ete-planifiee-de-longue-date-.php
Это была не спонтанная, а спланированная война -
http://www.novayagazeta.ru/data/2008/59/04.html

Posted by: maalane Author Profile Page at August 29, 2008 8:18 AM

Today (8/29/08), a policy paper was published by the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute affiliated with Johns Hopkins University. Russia's War in Georgia by Svante E. Cornell, Johanna Popjanevski, and Niklas Nilsson. The link is to the 45-page PDF.

Fair-use excerpt from their detailed timeline (however, no links or cites are offered for individual items):
August 7, 2008

In Tbilisi, the Georgian authorities receive foreign intelligence reports about movement of Russian troops towards the Roki tunnel, connecting North Ossetia with the South Ossetian conflict zone. Georgian President Saakashvili consults Western diplomats and is advised by U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Matthew Bryza not to fall into a trap and to avoid a confrontation with Russia.

At approximately 7 PM, the Georgian government announces its decision to cease fire in order to defuse tensions and offers to engage in talks with the South Ossetian side. A few hours later the Georgian authorities report that several Georgian-controlled villages, including Avnevi, Prisi and Kurta, have come under heavy fire from the South Ossetian side.

According to multiple and consistent Georgian sources (including witnesses to the discussions), at approximately 11 PM Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili receives information that a convoy of over 100 Russian military vehicles is passing through the Roki tunnel.

The Georgian government informs U.S envoy Bryza that it has no other choice but to advance towards the tunnel in an attempt to push the Russian troops back. Shortly before midnight, the Georgian Ministry of Defense announces its decision to restore the constitutional order in South Ossetia. Russian Defense Ministry sources, meanwhile, claim its forces did not enter Georgia until the afternoon the next day, but have failed to state the exact time of entry.

August 8, 2008

From midnight on August 8, Georgian troops begin an attack intended to destroy the road connecting the Roki tunnel with Tskhinvali, and advance towards the breakaway capital. Georgian forces seize several South Ossetian controlled villages located on higher ground around the breakaway capital. According to Georgian authorities, at approximately 1 AM the Georgian troops succeed in shelling the road south of the Roki tunnel, thus delaying the advance of the Russian convoy. At 2 AM, Georgian ground troops reach Tskhinvali and begin firing rockets against governmental buildings in the city.

The shelling of the city continues overnight. In the early morning, the Georgian side reports that additional Russian troops have passed the Roki tunnel and are advancing towards Tskhinvali. At 8 AM, the Georgian air force bombards the Gupta bridge [sic--this would be the Didi Gupta bridge ~15 km north of Tskhinvali] (connecting the region of Java, south of the Roki tunnel, with Tskhinvali), delaying the advance of Russian units on approach to Tskhinvali.
Posted by: AMac Author Profile Page at August 29, 2008 8:37 AM

Well, after reading johndakota's last comment, I realized that I should not waste my time with him. I should have limited myself to answering to Michael Totten's cordial question. I finished a comment with:

"Am I claiming that Russia's hands are clean on this? No, I'm not. There no clean hands here, neither Georgian, Russian, American, Ossetian, Abkhazian."

And Michael wrote:

"I can accept most of that statement, with one exception. Are American hands really dirty in this conflict? Really? No one on any side has been killed by Americans. Americans are providing humanitarian relief. That's it."

I tried to be fair in my reply to Michael. I would love to know what he things about it. To sum up:

Neither the Georgians, Russians nor Ossetians are blameless here and they all have blood on their hands. But I also think the hands of the US, although without blood, cannot be said to be innocent and clean. Why? I don't blame the US for that short war, but this does not mean that the US is blameless in how is playing this game. For geopolitical reasons the US is turning a blind eye to Saakashvili's abuses and are painting him as a champion of democracy. Well, Saak may be an ally of the US, but he's not a hero of democracy.

I'm not saying anything new about Saakashvili's government and the US's support of it. For instance, this is from an August 12 interview of Charles Fairbanks. He's a US State Department veteran and a senior fellow of the Hudson Institute (a neoconservative think-tank) who currently lives six months a year in Georgia:

///

"Saakashvili is a poster child for U.S. efforts at democratic expansion. How genuine is his commitment to democracy?"

"Things look very, very different in the last 10 months than they did during the Rose Revolution. When the Georgian government smashed up the only independent television station for the whole of Georgia on November 7, beat up the journalists, and closed it down, President Bush’s emissary delivered a public ultimatum that it had to be returned to the airwaves. The Georgian government never let anything political return on that channel: no news, no talk shows, nothing. We just dropped our demand, as though we had no influence over tiny Georgia, and invited the president who had crushed free television to the White House for hugs and photo-ops. We don’t follow through on anything we say we insist on for democracy, and ignoring our demands has no consequences. So the bellicose elements in the Georgian leadership drew the inference: Our warnings against war for South Ossetia must be empty gestures. The feebleness of our democracy promotion efforts bore poisoned geopolitical fruit, and we were surprised by that."
/////

http://tnr.com/politics/story.html?id=d1e62787-53d3-4b09-bc57-5c489d8d2fc7

Posted by: KolyaV Author Profile Page at August 29, 2008 10:20 AM

Just to let you guys know, once upon a time I used to pay attention to what Pavel Felgenhauer has to say. Not anymore. His track record has been extremely iffy. Time and again he's been proven wrong in his analysis and predictions.

Posted by: KolyaV Author Profile Page at August 29, 2008 10:25 AM

It is frankly amazing to me that you complain about the Americans in Iraq but not the Russians in Georgia.

And that others complain about the Russians in Georgia but not the Americans in Iraq.

To my mind, this is tactically similar to the carving off of Kurdish territory from under Hussein. Georgia was obviously unwisely throwing its bantam weight around a little too much considering they are right beside Russia's military, and the Russians responded. This is what great powers do to smaller powers all the time.

And who started it has almost no relevance. Russia will take these territories, and there's nothing that anyone can do about it.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood Author Profile Page at August 29, 2008 10:49 AM

KolyaV: he Georgian government smashed up the only independent television station for the whole of Georgia on November 7, beat up the journalists, and closed it down

It ought to go without saying that I don't approve of such behavior from any government, not only because I'm a democrat but also because I'm a journalist.

Saakashvili is still better than Shevardnadze, though, and certainly better than Vladimir Putin and the Russian invasion.

The fact that Georgia and its government is screwed up does not mean Georgia deserves to be attacked and dismembered.

The Russian government is worse. My thinking so does not mean I think Russia should be invaded and carved up because of it.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at August 29, 2008 10:59 AM

DPU: To my mind, this is tactically similar to the carving off of Kurdish territory from under Hussein.

It may be tactically similar, but it isn't morally or ethically similar. Saakashvili didn't try to erase the Abkhaz and Ossetians from the face of the earth.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at August 29, 2008 11:05 AM

DPU: And who started it has almost no relevance. Russia will take these territories, and there's nothing that anyone can do about it.

True, that.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at August 29, 2008 11:07 AM

It may be tactically similar, but it isn't morally or ethically similar.

Those are subjective measures. I have no doubt that the Russians and Ossetians feel that right is as much on their side as the Kurds and Americans do.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood Author Profile Page at August 29, 2008 11:16 AM

Michael, thanks for the reply. I was purposefully limiting myself to answering your question: why do I think that the US government is not entirely blameless here? As Fairbanks makes it clear, after initial protestations the US turned a blind eye to Saakashvili's abuses. This obviously did not have a positive effect on Saak.

----

About the conflict in general let me just say that both the Ossetians and the Abkhaz made it perfectly clear that they never considered themselves Georgians and part of Georgia, and if not outright independence they rather be under under Russia than under Georgia. This is not a new development. After significant fighting Georgians lost control of them over 15 years ago.

By saying this I'm in no way condoning the killing of noncombatants, the looting, and all such things, regardless of the conflict and the side that is committing such crimes.

Posted by: KolyaV Author Profile Page at August 29, 2008 11:57 AM
And who started it has almost no relevance. Russia will take these territories, and there's nothing that anyone can do about it. True, that.
Relevance to what? If you mean to the territories that Russia will take: well, yeah. Where does an 800-pound gorilla sit?

No general relevance of who started it? False, that. Otherwise, why the spinning on this very point?

The rest of the nations in Russia's Near Abroad will decide what to do on the basis of perceptions of what happened. How things started looms very large in that.

If "Georgia provoked Russia," perhaps X-istan should avoid a similar fate by striving to be a genuine good neighbor (a better neighbor than Saakashvili was, anyway). Probably not so hard to do.

But if "Russia provoked Georgia," neighborliness is a fool's errand. Perhaps X-istan faces a binary choice between doing Moscow's bidding, and aligning with the West (combined with air defenses and anti-armor-capable ground forces).

Posted by: AMac Author Profile Page at August 29, 2008 12:18 PM

Perhaps X-istan faces a binary choice between doing Moscow's bidding, and aligning with the West (combined with air defenses and anti-armor-capable ground forces).

You raise a good point, except that I don't see your binary choice. The West is not about to go to war with Russia over small patches of territory well within Russia's sphere of political, regional, and military influence, so any such alliance would be about as useful as Georgia's alliance with the US.

A land grab the size of a Baltic State, Ukraine, or Poland might well be a different story.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood Author Profile Page at August 29, 2008 12:56 PM

This is a great article. But what i dont understand is that if South Ossetia is just a bunch of thugs and smugglers, then why does Georgia care about maintaining it as their own?

Why not just hand the area over too Russia? And if your answer is because there are Georgians in that territory then why would Georgia cut off electricity to that area (see wikipedia article on South Ossetia)? Why wouldnt Georgia try to help build up South Ossetia?

Posted by: gsandha Author Profile Page at August 29, 2008 1:08 PM

KolyaV,

No.. what you should have done was explained why you blamed the US beyond just saying geopolitics, and why the US deserves special incrimination vs. other western countries that share the same positions but you don't mention. That's all that I"m getting at, and why your inclusion of the US appears to be excessively anti-american.

So georgia's democracy isn't 'perfect'. Hardly any are, and you can find examples of model democracies that infringe on personal liberties and free presses all the time. Take Canada for example, look at the current embarrasment the Human Rights Comissions in that country have become. They're chilling legitimate debate in favour or respecting fake 'human rights' of 'the right not to be offended.' The federal and provincial governments actually pay to prosecute people for holding unpopular opinions, while the defendant is left to shoulder the full financial pressure of his defense. If you want another example just look at the whole FLQ situation back in the 70s. Martial law was declared after a few kidnappings. I"d say those examples are far more serious than breaking down an independent media outlet, even though that's totally ridiculous itself. That said, you don't see the US releasing all kinds of official statements on the Canadian Human Rights Comissions, which means it should be surprising they were silent on the demolition of a Georgian independent news agency.

So what exactly was the US supposed to do that would let you feel they weren't negligent? Release statements about every negative thing that happens in every democracy around teh world? That way if something like what happened in Georgia happens again guys like you won't be able to label the US as having 'dirty hands?' Come on man, the US would spend every minute of every day releasing statements on bad deeds of fellow democracies.

I think your attempt at drawing moral equivalence is a little much. Sure I guess you can say the US isn't blameless, but neither is Canada, France, Germany, and the UK on the same level as the US. So I question why you'd not mention any of those other countries. I suspect it's because of a serious anti-american sentiment, which isn't entirely surprising as it prevails most of the world. Just don't paint your anti-american sentiment as 'neutral' because you hold Russia to count as well. Let's remember, one has buckets of blood on it's hand.. the other.. well they had a favourable opinion of a budding democracy.

Posted by: JohnDakota Author Profile Page at August 29, 2008 1:13 PM

So georgia's democracy isn't 'perfect'. Hardly any are, and you can find examples of model democracies that infringe on personal liberties and free presses all the time. Take Canada for example, look at the current embarrasment the Human Rights Comissions in that country have become.

Say what?

Here's The Economist's Democracy Index. Keeping in mind that the Economist is a Conservative publication, note that Canada is rated ninth from the top compared to the US at position 17.

Then note that Georgia is in position 104, more akin to Russia itself, Liberia, Cambodia, and Haiti.

It's one thing to say that all democracies are flawed, it's quite another to misrepresent the scale of those differences.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood Author Profile Page at August 29, 2008 1:27 PM

Listen, johndakota. This is my last comment to you. One of the places in which you were wrong was to mistakenly ascribe certain motives to me. I'm a straightforward man and I always try to be fair-minded and stick to the facts.

For the record, I have criticized the actions of Russia plenty of times (with respect to Chechnya, the press, etc, etc). In addition, I really dislike (and made fun of them plenty of times) people who have a knee-jerk anti-American reaction to anything the US does or says around the world. This does not mean that the US is beyond reproach and, in my view, is certainly not beyond with respect to Georgia. Is Charles Fairbanks, a man who has done plenty of work for the US and Georgia, an anti-American for criticizing the US government for letting Saakashvili off the hook? In the words of Fairbanks:

"We just dropped our demand, as though we had no influence over tiny Georgia, and invited the president who had crushed free television to the White House for hugs and photo-ops. We don’t follow through on anything we say we insist on for democracy, and ignoring our demands has no consequences. So the bellicose elements in the Georgian leadership drew the inference: Our warnings against war for South Ossetia must be empty gestures. The feebleness of our democracy promotion efforts bore poisoned geopolitical fruit, and we were surprised by that."

One more thing. Yes, I'm an ethnic Russian. But I'm also a US citizen. I became a citizen while serving as an infantryman in the US Army.

Posted by: KolyaV Author Profile Page at August 29, 2008 1:41 PM

KolyaV,

Just because you've criticized Russia in instances doesn't mean you aren't pro-Russia, and just because you've criticized anti-Americans doesn't mean you're not anti-American yourself. Frankly, I don't care about your character traits, and I'm not interested in character assassination, it's your argument itself that's faulty.

You're blaming the US, and saying they have dirty hands in this war because they didn't [b]force[\b] Georgia through whatever means to adopt democratic ideals the US has developed over two centuries. Georgia's democracy is a little over one decade old, how stable of a democracy do you think the US was 10 years into the fact? Look at the personal liberties regarding free speech that were curbed doing McCarthyism in the 40s and 50s, or throughout the Vietnam War. This was over 1.5 centuries of democracy in the US, and some of the most serious infringements of personal liberties happened. You're going to draw a moral equivalence to a democracy that's a decade old and making errors of a serious but far lesser magnitude? Come on.

Not only that, you're blaming the US for not going beyond voicing their dissatisfaction of how Georgia was conducting it's own democracy. Your own references demonstrate the the US was opposed to what was happening in Georgia, but you as well as Charles Fairbanks wanted more, wanted the US to someway [b]force[\b]Georgia to comply. Don't you think that would have been fairly... uhh.. imperialistic? Something that I would hold far more negatively than what you hold the US in contempt for, which quite frankly is absolutely nothing.

Posted by: JohnDakota Author Profile Page at August 29, 2008 2:24 PM

DPU,

Wow.. that's so surprising considering Georgia has been a democracy for a little over a decade now, while the US and Canada have been democracies for centuries.

More surprising is that Georgia would be comparable to Russia, you know since Georgia originated from Russia.

Posted by: JohnDakota Author Profile Page at August 29, 2008 2:49 PM

Wow.. that's so surprising considering Georgia has been a democracy for a little over a decade now, while the US and Canada have been democracies for centuries.

I think that you missed the point by a couple of hundred miles. You were saying that all democracies have flaws. This is true, but there is the dimension of degree, which you were ignoring.

Besides, there are other nations that have been democracies for a similar period of time, and are doing quite well on the democratic front. For example, the Czech Republic scores pretty high, and both Spain and Portugal rank high yet have only been democracies for a few decades.

It doesn't take centuries in every case, and if it did, one could have defended Hussein with the same argument.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood Author Profile Page at August 29, 2008 3:07 PM

double-plus, there is a certain blind willfulness in johndakota's inability to see the obvious. Don't bother with him.

I just had some thoughts on Georgia's situation. Let's assume (for the sake of argument) that Russia was indeed sending all those tanks into South Ossetia hours before Georgia started the attack. Does that mean that Georgia's reaction was the correct one? No, obviously not. Under such a scenario Georgia's reaction should still be categorized as rash, idiotic and self-defeating. Under such a scenario, what Georgia should have done is to immediately announce and loudly to the world what was going on (with evidence), call for emergency international observers, and mobilize its armed forces to shore up the defenses of Georgia proper (outside Abkhazia and South Ossetia), but making darn sure that its troop did not enter South Ossetia. It was only by bombing and attacking South Ossetia that Georgia sealed its defeat. If it would have stayed out of South Ossetia, fewer people would have died and Russia would have not have an excuse to attack and destroy so much of the Georgian army.

That's one of the reasons I don't buy the story that Georgia attacked to block Russian troops from entering South Ossetia. It could well be, however, that Russia was alert and hoping that Georgia would react exactly as it did.

I assume that in a couple of months or so we'll have a more accurate and detailed information and we'll have a much fuller and precise picture of what really happened. For now, most of this (including this comment) is speculation.

Posted by: KolyaV Author Profile Page at August 29, 2008 4:04 PM

"Besides, there are other nations that have been democracies for a similar period of time (as Georgia), and are doing quite well on the democratic front. For example, the Czech Republic scores pretty high, and both Spain and Portugal rank high yet have only been democracies for a few decades."

Not exactly. Totally different cultural base to build on.
Georgia was influenced by Russia for centuries while those countries were influenced by West for the most of the same period. BTW, how do Baltic states rank? I am guessing, somewhere close to Czechs?

Posted by: leo Author Profile Page at August 29, 2008 7:16 PM

I see some amusing inconsistencies. People defend Georgia as a democratic country, and then, when the current poor record of Georgia's democracy is pointed out, people say, "how do you expect Georgia to be a democracy when it was under Russia for so long?"

The organizations behind the "Democracy Index" are The Economist, a conservative publication, and Freedom House, a conservative NGO. Well, according to them as of 2007 Serbia, Palestine, Venezuela, Mozambique, Uganda, Kenya, and Russia (among many others) are MORE democratic than Georgia (out of 167 countries, Georgia is ranked as 104.)

I'm sure these rankings are only an approximation and we can take issue with some of them. It's clear, though, that Georgia's credentials as a democratic state are, at best, very iffy. This means that if the US wants to defend Georgia it should not emphasize the "Georgia is a democracy idea" too much. Moreover, it's not even necessary for the US to use democracy as a rationale. After all, the US rightly defended Kuwait (134 down the list), is an ally of Saudi Arabia (159th place), and is cozy with China (138th).

Posted by: KolyaV Author Profile Page at August 29, 2008 8:33 PM

I would like to note that Josh Foust has responded to my criticisms of his citation of UNOMAP satellite images on this thread (e.g. at August 29, 2008 8:10 AM). While we do not agree, his points are substantial. They can be found in the comments following his post at Registan.net.

Posted by: AMac Author Profile Page at August 29, 2008 9:11 PM

I see some amusing inconsistencies. People defend Georgia as a democratic country, and then, when the current poor record of Georgia's democracy is pointed out, people say, "how do you expect Georgia to be a democracy when it was under Russia for so long?"

KolyaV, please.
DPU was curious how come while Czechs and Georgians started to build democracy approximately at the same Czechs advanced much farther than Georgians.
My possible explanation was that Checks started it much much earlier than Georgians.
You do not have to agree with me (I have been known to be wrong and more than once) but bashing of Russia it is not. It is history, no more, no less. At list it is my interpretation of history. If you believe I am incorrect, please I'll be happy to improve my knowledge.

I found link to ranking page in DPU post:

Czech Republic 18
Estonia 33
Lithuania 39
Slovakia 41
Latvia 43

Posted by: leo Author Profile Page at August 30, 2008 5:59 AM

Both DPU and KolyaV,

You guys are ridiculous. I've never said you can't criticize Georgia because they're a budding democracy, what I've said is you can't blame the US for Georgian faults, which is what you've done KolyaV. By your own admission the US voiced their dissatisfaction with how Georgia was operating as a democracy.

But ya.. ignore me Kolya, because you're anti-american and I've called you on it. Boo hoo.

Posted by: JohnDakota Author Profile Page at August 30, 2008 7:59 AM

So response to the points and questions that have been raised.

1. The bulk of Georgia's army is not in Iraq. Georgia had 2,000 soldiers in Iraq out of an army of about 20,000.

2. People point at the rapid Russian troop movement as proof that Russia planned all of this in advance. However, Georgian troops launched their attack at 11:30pm and within three hours were assaulting the S.O. capital. Isn't that rapid advance evidence that Georgia had planned that troop movement days in advance?

3. I liked one poster's conspiracy theory that the Russians caused this hoping that Saakashvili would have left for the Olympics. Putin, the real leader of Russia, had already left for the Olympics. In terms of timing of this, that points towards Georgia starting things. I don't even think Saakashvili was planning to attend the Olympics.

4. For Michael, the title of your piece and the first couple of paragraphs give the impression that you intended this to be taken as THE final truth about who started things. Yet all the sources you used were provided by Georgia. You say that you were not able to interview S.O. or Russian officials in S.O. because of the fighting. Presumably, though, you could have flown to Moscow and done some interviewing there? Unfortunately, the overall impression is that you only want to present the Georgian view of things to the exclusion of others. That's fine for a spokesman or PR rep, but not what people expect from a journalist.

Posted by: Angus Mc Author Profile Page at August 30, 2008 9:04 AM

Leo, I actually do not disagree with your last couple of comments. They were perfectly reasonable.

Posted by: KolyaV Author Profile Page at August 30, 2008 9:07 AM

Angus, I agree with you about the title of Michael's post. As I wrote earlier in the thread:

"As I see it, one of the problems with Michael's post was the presumptuous title itself, "The Truth About Russia in Georgia". Perhaps Michael meant to be either ironic, provocative, or both. To me, though, it sounded too self-assured and arrogant, as if Michael himself had no doubts that what he was presenting was the TRUTH. In any event, in a couple of months or so, once folks had time to calmly analyze the available information from BOTH sides our picture of what happened in South Ossetia will be much clearer and accurate."

Posted by: KolyaV Author Profile Page at August 30, 2008 9:14 AM

Angus: all the sources you used were provided by Georgia

Wrong. Only one was "provided" by Georgia, and he isn't even Georgian. He's German. My other main source is American, a man I was in contact with before the war even began.

I wasn't supposed to interview the Georgian soldiers at all. The Georgian military was closed to journalists. That's why I had to go around the institution and talk to those who were wounded in hospitals where their commanding officers could not get in my way. These men were not "provided" by the Georgian government. I had to work around teh Georgian government to get to them.

you could have flown to Moscow and done some interviewing there

Wrong. It takes months to get a visa for Russia.

the overall impression is that you only want to present the Georgian view of things to the exclusion of others.

Other sources were not available to me.

I would have interviewed those on the other side of the line, but the Russian military requires an unattainable Russian visa to visit even the parts of Georgia they control.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at August 30, 2008 9:18 AM

Yes, the title was provocative. I admit that, but don't get hung up on those six words. The article itself is almost 5,000 words long.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at August 30, 2008 9:21 AM

Perhaps if the truth about Russian and South Ossetian aggression was accurately covered by the media then Michael wouldnt have to entitle this article, "The Truth About Russia in Georgia".

In that case the media would have made it clear that South Ossetia was using banned weapons, removed its civilian population while irregular fighters were moved in to prepare for its escalation and Russia sent troops through the Roki tunnel ...before August 7th.

...But that was not made clear by a media that should be better informed.

Posted by: Freedom Now Author Profile Page at August 30, 2008 10:20 AM

Those attempting to use the title of this piece itself as a rationale to leverage far wider doubts and criticisms are themselves engaging in a silly practice. This is not a middle-school or high-school civics class and anyone who is reasonably educated and informed knows that the "truth" referred to (in the title alone) is not intended to be a once-and-for-all conclusive and exclusionary Truth about all things of note as they relate to Russia and Georgia. I've read the piece twice now and always assumed the "truth" spoken of relates to the theme of the piece, as reflected in the first paragraph or two.

Further, if the term "truth" had been repeatedly used in the body of the piece, the charge or concern could be more responsibly forwarded. But the term occurs in the title of the piece - and thereafter it occurs not one, lone, solitary time in the body of the piece. Not once. Nada.

Posted by: Michael_B Author Profile Page at August 30, 2008 11:06 AM

In that case the media would have made it clear that South Ossetia was using banned weapons, removed its civilian population while irregular fighters were moved in to prepare for its escalation and Russia sent troops through the Roki tunnel ...before August 7th.

Yeah, right. None of those components legitmize or render accurate the claim that Russia "started the war with Georgia".

The bottom line, regardless of the tunnel question, is that, between Russia and Georgia, the first armed force to cross into terrain it didn't previously control was Georgia, and then they continued forward to attack Russian forces in Russian-controlled territory, and the Ossetian capital, at a time when previously there had been no hot war between Russian and Georgian forces.

Maybe that could be defended as a savvy pre-emptive strike against a bunch of nasty Russian dudes, but Georgia started the war as most humans understand the idea of 'starting a war', at least between Georgia and Russia.

Posted by: glasnost Author Profile Page at August 30, 2008 1:12 PM

Bullshit, glasnost. The preemptive propaganda and cyber campaigns alone, launched from within Russia, reflect belligerant, highly indicative, systematic intentions. This sterile, abstracted, quasi-analysis cum advocacy of yours positively shouts out for and demands more depth and breadth, more probing and probative reflections - in general a decidedly less truncated analysis throughout.

Posted by: Michael_B Author Profile Page at August 30, 2008 1:34 PM

Gah. Given the confusion in conflicts of this kind, and given that there is propaganda and legal advantages associated with being the non-aggressor, both sides are going to portray themselves as valiantly resisting a horde of orcs.

We'll probably never know how the conflict actually started. Personally, I don't care. Both sides are semi-dictatorships, and the aims of the parties involved amount to a dogfight over a bone.

Cheering on one side or the other in this case simply reveals a preconceived bias.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood Author Profile Page at August 30, 2008 7:16 PM

dpu wrote:
"We'll probably never know how the conflict actually started. Personally, I don't care. Both sides are semi-dictatorships, and the aims of the parties involved amount to a dogfight over a bone."

You don't have to care about this war at all but please don't call it a dogfight over a bone. People are dead on both sides and now there is another wave of refugees in Tbilisi. This is on top of about 350,000 georgian refugees from 15 years ago.
Also, you can't even compare Putin and Saakashvili. Were you kidding or are you really that ignorant? I don't even have time nor desire to explain to you what Putin is doing in his own country to his own people. Shutting down TV stations, imprisoning opposition leaders, journalists mysteriously disappearing...
Saakashvili's shutting down of his opposition's TV station for two months is a little slap on the hand in comparison with Putin's horrific actions.
As MJT had to remind us over and over Abkhazia and South Ossetia are Georgian territories. So what's that nonsense by glastnost?

"between Russia and Georgia, the first armed force to cross into terrain it didn't previously control was Georgia, and then they continued forward to attack Russian forces in Russian-controlled territory, and the Ossetian capital, at a time when previously there had been no hot war between Russian and Georgian forces."

I (mg) think only few of you understand what really happened in early 90's in Abkhazia and South Ossetia. First Georgian Soviet Socialistic Republic was peacefully protesting to gain independence. As I recall we were first or one of the first republics to demand this. What do you know? at exactly same time Abkhazians start fighting with us (and if I remember right they even want to stay as part of USSR). And can you imagine they win the war? How come, when they don't even have their own military? Of course it's Russians... The Russians won the war for them in Abkhazia and South Ossetia in 90's. So I'm surprised when I here decisions made based upon what happened in 90's. To me those two wars in 90's were totally orchestrated by Russia to weaken Georgia and Russians actions were totally illegal just as they are now. If you think this is paranoia you just don't know the Russian Government then and now.

dpu:
"Cheering on one side or the other in this case simply reveals a preconceived bias."

You know what, if you don't give a hoot about this matter maybe you should not write about it. Preconceived bias? One has to take stand for what he/she thinks is right. Am I bias defending Jews and criticizing Hitler?

Posted by: mg Author Profile Page at August 30, 2008 9:29 PM
From an AFP article of 8/30/08, Russia calls for more observers in Georgia:
The German weekly Der Spiegel separately reported that OSCE observers were blaming Georgia for triggering the crisis in a series of unofficial reports presented to the German government.

OSCE monitors said Georgia had made elaborate preparations for the offensive in South Ossetia on August 7. Tbilisi has claimed that they were provoked by the Russian side.

Russian troops entered Georgia on August 8 to push back Georgian troops attempting to restore control over South Ossetia.
From a Serbian website (of unknown (to me) reliability):
The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe has accumulated evidence pointing to "numerous wrong decisions" made by Georgian leaders that led to a military crisis with Russia, Der Spiegel said on Saturday.

In a report to be published in its Monday edition, OSCE military observers in the Caucasus described detailed planning by Georgia to move into South Ossetia which contributed to the crisis, the German magazine said.

The report also backed up Russian claims that the Georgian offensive was already in full swing by the time Russian troops and armored vehicles entered the Roksky Tunnel, on the border with Russia and South Ossetia, to protect its peacekeepers and the civilian population.
These are predictions of what tomorrow's Der Spiegel will say, not the article itself. And the article is a synopsis of an OSCE report, not the report itself. Still, if OSCE monitors at Didi Gupta and possibly at the Roki Tunnel itself have indeed reported that the 58th Army transit into South Ossetia began after the 8/7 11:30pm Georgian movement towards Tshkinvali, this would punch a big hole in Saakashvili's narrative. By removing what the Georgian government identified as the last-straw provocation that precipitated their military move, it would undermine their overall credibility.

As far as I know, the Der Spiegel story is not yet published.

Posted by: AMac Author Profile Page at August 31, 2008 8:35 AM
Der Spiegel timeline of the war, dated 8/25/08 Road to War in Georgia: The Chronicle of a Caucasian Tragedy:
But starting in early August, [Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory] Karasin began receiving unsettling reports from Yuri Popov, the relevant special ambassador and commander of the Russian portion of the peacekeeping force. At approximately 9 p.m. on the evening of Aug. 7, Karasin was informed that Georgia was amassing troops along the South Ossetian border. The special ambassador reported counting five tanks, six armored personnel carriers, five howitzers, multiple rocket launchers, trucks and buses full of soldiers and officers on the road back to Tbilisi from Tskhinvali.

[snip]

By the next morning, it was too late for a peaceful solution. Starting at 2:06 a.m. on Aug. 8, the tickers of international press agencies began running reports of Russian tanks in the Roki tunnel. Depending on the estimate, the Russians moved between 5,500 and 10,000 soldiers into South Ossetia through the Roki tunnel.

The 2:06am time of the first report is ~2-1/2 hours after the start of the ~11:30pm Georgian movement north to Tskhinvali.

Posted by: AMac Author Profile Page at August 31, 2008 8:56 AM

KolyaV,

One more thing. Yes, I'm an ethnic Russian. But I'm also a US citizen. I became a citizen while serving as an infantryman in the US Army.

Wow. Used to be in a USMC infantry battalion that had a Russian intel officer. He used to tell us the best way to capture Russian Guards was to shoot them in the head. And he wasn't joking. Of course, that was back in the 1980s, and he left the Soviet Union as an adult, under unpleasant circumstances. I'm guessing you and he wouldn't get along very well! When did you come to the US, KolyaV?

Posted by: programmmer_craig Author Profile Page at August 31, 2008 12:01 PM

One has to take stand for what he/she thinks is right. Am I bias defending Jews and criticizing Hitler?

First of all, I said "in THIS case". How does that apply to Hitler? Did you miss the qualifier?

Secondly, people taking a stand in THIS case are doing so based on what they want to believe rather than fact, as we do not know the facts. Hence the comment about preconceived bias.

Regarding people dying, too right they are. I'd love it if the world was in a position to step in and separate the two parties, have international peacekeepers in place, and call for a referendum to see what the regions want to do. Ten years ago, that might be an option. Today it's the wild west, and there's nothing to stop Russia from implementing its will.

Lastly, Georgia and Russia are both thugocracies. Spare me the rationalizations about who is the worst thug, I don't really care.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood Author Profile Page at August 31, 2008 12:31 PM

"I'm guessing you and he wouldn't get along very well!"

If he advocated killing prisoners (regardless of cournty) of course I would not agree with him. I came from a staunchly anti-communist Russian family. I served in the US Army during the second half of the 1980s. Even though with my knowledge of languages I would have been a good choice for intelligence, as a non-citizen enlistee I didn't have the clearance for it. In any event, I would have still chosen the infantry as an MOS--that's what I wanted to do.

By the way, I regretted writing about my service here since it was totally irrelevant to the points I was trying to make. I will not write about it again.

Posted by: KolyaV Author Profile Page at August 31, 2008 1:06 PM
Georgia's wounded troops tell of their surprise when Russia attacked --
Major Dumbatze, 33, denied any knowledge of atrocities committed in Georgia's initial assault on Tskhinvali. His men were hunting down remaining militiamen and had left their armour in the open only because they thought they had won, bringing 17 years of secession to an end. “It was a dream for all Georgian soldiers,” he said. “I didn't expect the Russians. I thought it was politically sealed, the Russian and Georgian Governments made some kind of agreement.”

There was no deal, as he discovered to his cost. As a loyal officer he avoided criticising his Government during the crisis, but admitted that “if you thought the Russians would attack, you'd have to be mad” to launch such an operation. “But we never expected them to attack - if you see the bear coming, you either get under a rock or out of the way.”

Corporal Tristani Chinditze, 20, never even made it as far as the battlefield. His unit was on its way to the front line in lorries and Jeeps when they were ambushed by a much larger Russian force of tanks and infantry.
Surprise? Oh, brother.

Is it starting to look like the Georgian plan was to copy Croatia's success in its lightning Krajina offensive? But Putin's Russia of 2008 is not Milosovec's Serbia of 1995.

(h/t commenter Archon at Registan.net)

Posted by: AMac Author Profile Page at August 31, 2008 3:59 PM

Very well patched story, very believable 4 those, who want to believe that all evil in the world comes from Russia or simply know nothing about the events which followed the fall of SU. I was in Baku, the capital of Azerbaidjan before their war with Armenia really started as a serious conflict, but before it started there were several ethnic-cleansing, which started because of desrespect 2 the dead, destroyed graveyard, fighting over it, first blood, then people start killing each other over eye for an eye principle. My old azerbaidjanian friend from Baku, who was much older than i, told me that then, over a little feast at his house in Baku. (I spent my childhood in my father's circus & there were people of many nationalities there) Our mutual armenian friend confirmed this story to me a few years later. Displaced nations in the SU? Yes, it was a tricky policy of bloody communist dictator Stalin. He & his right hand rapist & murderer Beria displaced, jailed & murdered millions of people. Stalin & Beria, both were georgians by the way, and they did it at Caucasus too, especially with Checnya and Abhazia. In the first case they moved all chechens to Kazahstan, those who were opposed this were killed or jailed, in second case, a lot of georgians were moved to Abhazia to become a majority instead of minority. Bloody breakout of Chechnya was revenge of chechens radicals against russians for Stalin's actions. Checnya became a base camp & safe heaven for chechen mafia. They were robbing, killing, kidnapping, raping in Russia and hiding in Chechya. They started ethnic-cleansing of non-chechens in Chechnya and Russia was tolerating it for a few years. Eltchin wanted them to be independent, but it was simply not enough for them, they wanted to put Russia on it's knees. Former russian secretary of defense Pavel Grachev make Eltchin to believe that he can end it by one quick military operation & that's how it's started. Political elite in Moscow of that period was too busy robbing their own country and people. They simply were too busy with that to care even a little about what was going on at the borders of Russia at that period, militaries were also busy, selling weapons to anybody in this conflicts who was paying money, many were working as mercenaries, shooting at each other from both sides, especially in Karabah. It were bloody money dirty militaries were making for themselves. There were many countries involved in all this chaos, for example at Caucasus there were o lot of involvement from Turkey.
20 years at Caucasus, doesn't sounds like a hobby, more like a steady job, simply create a Himera with EvilRussia face, maintain your reputation as an objective expert on "i see Russia's evil plots everywhere" and u will never be out of job till uncle Sam wants u. I heard many SU journalists with good reputation were in fact KGB agents with similar job, showing EvilUS face to all who wanted to beleive in it. Typical ideological warfare of i thought long gone for good cold war times. Those who create & spred the image of the enemy are the false prothets u can find in the Bible, i only hope that someday they will understand that they are pushing our world to the abyss and it will be not too late to stop it...

Posted by: neborator Author Profile Page at August 31, 2008 5:09 PM

If this Der Spiegel article has its facts correct, it blows the narrative herein - already rhetorically misleading and highly selective in its presentation of fact - to smitheerens.

http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/0,1518,574812-3,00.html

Are you going to attempt to find out the truth about what you were told, Mike? Better late than never.

Some key points from the article, for those too lazy to read -

makes rather clear that Georgia had been preparing specifically for the actions it took for weeks beforehand (no surprise)

-the dude who used the phrase "restore constitutional order" was the President of Georgia, not a hick colonel, or a defense minister.

Accounts of Georgian phone conversations between Saakashvilii and Russian forces - after the bombardment of Tshinkvali and at 1110 PM. Accounts of first moves by Georgian forces into Russian-controlled South Ossetia - 4PM, with capitol bombardment at 1030PM. First reports of Russian armor in the tunnel - 0200AM August 8.

By the way, there should be enough information available to confirm these times. If Georgia was bombarding Tshinkivali by 1030 PM as a response to a Russian movement through the tunnel, Russian movement has to have begun well before that time. If Georgian troops were invading Ossetia by 4PM, Russian troops would have had to have started moving through the tunnel by.. 3PM? 2PM? But your storyteller puts the Russian troop movements as in the evening. That's simultaneous with, or well after, the Georgian penetration of Ossetia.

At this point, I'd bet about $100 that Der Speigel is right and this report false. Their information is very specific, fits together well, and plain makes sense.

I'm watching to see how you fix this, Mike.

Posted by: glasnost Author Profile Page at August 31, 2008 5:51 PM

"Stalin & Beria, both were georgians by the way"

Please, could shed some light on origins of Beria's predecessors Yagoda and Yezjov?

Posted by: leo Author Profile Page at August 31, 2008 6:12 PM

glasnost 5:51pm --

The Der Spiegel 8/25/08 timeline "Road to War in Georgia" does not read exactly the way you suggest. Direct quote:
At 4:06 p.m. [on Thurs. Aug. 7], the South Ossetian authorities reported that Tskhinvali had come under attack from grenade launchers and automatic weapons. Fifty minutes later, they reported "large-scale military aggression against the Republic of South Ossetia." According to Western intelligence sources, the Georgian artillery bombardment of Tskhinvali did not begin until 10:30 p.m. on that Thursday. It was orchestrated by 27 Georgian army rocket launchers capable of firing ordnance with a maximum caliber of 152 millimeters. At 11 p.m., Saakashvili announced that the goal of the operation was the "re-establishment of constitutional order in South Ossetia."
Even taking the South Ossetian authorities at their word, this does not mean that Georgian troops crossed from Georgian territory near Gori into South Ossetia at 4:06pm, or even at 4:56pm. In the prior days and weeks, there had been plenty of violent exchanges by forces already in South Ossetia. Likewise, the first report of armor transiting the Roki Tunnel at 2:06am does not mean that that time marks the start of such an operation.

This is not to excuse the Georgians, especially considering the violence their forces directed at civilians prior to the mass entry of the Russians. And notwithstanding the #1 excuse of ethnic cleansers, "they did it first". (The truth of which claim almost always depends on the competing definitions of "first" and of the point at which hooliganism is considered severe enough to merit the term 'cleansing.')

It is a reminder that we have more questions than answers. The OSCE findings will be important (apparently they had eight unarmed observers in South Ossetia on August 7).

Posted by: AMac Author Profile Page at August 31, 2008 7:52 PM

Leo, as you probably know, what later became known as the KGB went through a permutation of names (although in honor of the first name, even in the 1990s KGB agents would call themselves Chekists.) The first names of the agency was the CheKa, followed by OGPU, NKV, and finally the KGB.

All the heads of that agency had plenty of blood on their hands. Here are the names and ethnic backgrounds of the first heads:

Dzerzhinsky (Polish)
Menzhinsky (Polish)
Yagoda (Jewish)(executed)
Yezhov (Russian)(executed)
Beria (Georgian)(executed)

Posted by: KolyaV Author Profile Page at August 31, 2008 8:04 PM

Correction: NKVD (not NKV)

Posted by: KolyaV Author Profile Page at August 31, 2008 8:07 PM

I note your qualifications, AMac. It seems pretty clear, though, that Georgian troops were penetrating Russian/Ossetian controlling territory prior to 1030PM, as they were apparently bombarding the capital by then. Give them an hour to reach said capital. Thus, Russian troops would have had to have been seen moving through the tunnel by... when? 8PM at the absolute minimum? 7PM?

The whole territory, I notice as I look at maps, is about 50 miles across at the widest point. If Russian troops started transiting the tunnel at 7PM, they should have arrived at the capital easily by 11PM, which is when the Georgian military killed 17 Russian peacekeeping force members, apparently without serious opposition from ground forces.

When did Russian ground forces arrive in the capital? Everything I've seen suggests that it wasn't until well into the 8'th, or even later, although I'm not sure.

Does anyone really think that the Georgian 'paratroopers' were really able to hold off the Russian column for half a day? Russia dominated the airspace over Ossetia. I'm not entirely convinced that the paratroopers even existed.
I doubt that the Georgian government was able to delay the Russian column to any significant extent. Most reports of the fighting suggest that they were routed with little resistance.

Posted by: glasnost Author Profile Page at August 31, 2008 8:25 PM

I'm interested in your thoughts on the above, AMac.

Posted by: glasnost Author Profile Page at August 31, 2008 8:26 PM

Plus it's the oldest law of warfare: have your guns in populated areas, and when the enemy responds, show the world your dead women and children.

Not to pick nits, but this statement is absurd. Just noticing it now. Were Russian peacekeepers somehow supposed to not be present in the capital of Ossetia while conducting peacekeeping operations under agreement in that territory? Was there presence there really entirely to bait people into killing civilians, or were they .. trying to control / controlling the city?

Has anyone actually demonstrated that Russians or Ossetians were firing from apartments, chruches, etc? The Georgians were firing on the capital with MRLSs with, as seems to be apparent, no possibility of specific aiming. So, because soldiers are in a city, it's not your fault when you fire unguided missiles into that city?

Posted by: glasnost Author Profile Page at August 31, 2008 8:37 PM

From Worms' statements

The peacekeepers had a military objective, and the first rule of warfare when you're talking to the media is not to reveal to your enemy what you're going to do. So they weren't going to blather into a microphone and say well, actually, I'm trying to go through Tskhinvali in order to stop the Russians. So what did he say instead? I'm here to restore constitutional order in South Ossetia

Ok. Right. He said that as cover for the fact that they were trying to stop the Russians.

Are you kidding me? Didn't they supposedly already drop a team of paratroopers to interdict the Russians? Can't we assume the Russians knew about it? And yet, somehow this statement is supposed to provide "cover" so that the Russians "Don't really know" that this force is "really advancing for the purpose of stopping the Russians"???????

This is laughable. I'm embarrassed at myself for not really thinking about it before. How can any sane person think that the Russians are going to somehow think you're assaulting the capital, but in a manner unrelated to halting the alleged pre-existing russian 'invasion', when your paratroopers have already engaged said invasion?

And even forgetting the paratroopers.. the Russian are going to somehow believe that this countermove isn't really related to their alledged prior 'invasion'? Really?

This is another example of how plain common sense suggests that the Georgians were not acting in response to some Russian movement. If they were, any attempt to pretend they weren't would have been a farce. Why would they even bother? Why the heck wouldn't they have been trumpeting said invasion to the press at the time, even as they were moving and giving these quotes?

Posted by: glasnost Author Profile Page at August 31, 2008 8:44 PM

"Stalin & Beria, both were georgians by the way"

Please, could shed some light on origins of Beria's predecessors Yagoda and Yezjov?

...What was Lenin's nationality and all the rest of the thugs'. Stalin and Beria's ethnic origin did not spare georgians in any way. They treated georgians ruthlessly. Actually, Stalin's father was Ossetian. It's not the ethnic origin that matters, right?

As far as Stalin moving georgians to Abkhazia... we can go on and on picking on each other and presenting bits and pieces of history. Please look up Georgia on Wikipedia. Look at old georgian maps. Abkhazia and South Ossetia (Samachablo-the land owned by aristocrat Machabeli) both are parts of United Kingdom of Georgia from ages and ages ago.
If Abkhazia and Ossetia wanted an independent status we (georgias, abkhaz and ossetians) should have handled it on our own in peaceful manner without Russia's involvement. The bottom line is Russia started this war in about 1989. They just could not wait to get their hands dirty and mess in our internal problems. This was done to teach us and other Soviet Union repablics the price you paid for desire to be independent from comrade Russia.

Posted by: mg Author Profile Page at August 31, 2008 9:27 PM

glasnost 8:25/8:26pm --

From what I have read (no personal experience or family ties), I have little to no sympathy for the Russians, as far as how they have conducted themselves in Georgia since, say, the breakup of the Soviet Union. The Ossetians and Abkhaz, like other famous and not-so-famous Caucasian ethnic minorities, are in a miserable position. Their leaders speak of their Russian friends, but people with memories must know better: it's the enemies of my enemies. In contrast, I have some sympathy for the Georgians and their junior varsity leadership. They seem to aspire to build a modern, Western state, and have at times acted as though democracy (as we understand it) is a part of that. But there are other instances where Saakashvili has succumbed to thuggery in pursuit of his other goals. Absent this war, Georgia might have gone the route of increasing civil rights, non-rigged elections, press freedoms, and a civil society. In the wake of this smashing defeat by Russia, it's a new game. Now, who knows.

But that's not what you asked.

With leaks from the OSCE report a few hours away, there's not a lot of profit in guessing. If I was to guess anyway, on the basis of the news reports I've linked earlier in the thread, it seems to me that Putin has played Saakashvili. The Russians have made no great secret of their pattern of increasing provocations since the Spring. Presumably they have given at least tacit approval to the Ossetions for their violent actions. Saakashvili and his cabinet seem to have believed that it would be very difficult to develop Georgia with a rebellious South Ossetia near its center. See the 2004 Freese article for a description of the smuggling, organized crime, border control, and security problems of the frozen conflict era. In my opinion, Russia promoted Ossetian irredentism in order to aggravate these problems.

On August 7, in the midst of a deteriorating situation and tit-for-tat actions, Saakashvili seems to have decided that there was enough violence to give the Russians the excuse to discard the ~1992 "Armistice" and intervene militarily. He seems to have gambled on the Krijina strategy, a lightning-fast takeover that would present Putin with a fait accompli.

If this guess turns out to be correct, it is hard to overstate the stupidity of the Georgians' appreciation of the strategic situation. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to complete this sentence: When matador Putin provokes the Georgian bull with a red cape, it is to goad the bull to _____ . Likewise, it would be hard to comprehend the gravity of the tactical mistakes that the Georgians then committed.

My impression from looking at topographical maps is that the road from Roki to Tskhinvali is in the bottom of a steep river valley until after the junction and bridge at Didi Gupta, at which point the terrain widens and roads branch, as the river enters the plain that stretches to Tskhinvali and then Gori. If the bridge at Didi Gupta was blown and the crossing stoutly defended against assault with bridging armor, the 58th Army would have a very difficult and costly time. Thus, securing Didi Gupta should have been the overriding goal of a Georgian assalt.

It seems that it was not--that bombarding and then occupying the city of Tskhivali was the main item on the agenda. Of course, a formidable air defense would have been essential to hold any position in South Ossetia--and the Georgians had apparently given little or no thought to that, either.

Shocking as it seems, my current impression is that the Georgians had the wrong tactical plans, because they had the wrong strategic estimation, because they somehow believed that the Russians would not respond to their thrust. Despite the provocations. Despite the warnings from US and other diplomats. Despite Putin's actions in other parts of the Near Abroad.

Perhaps it will turn out that the Russians' final provocation was to abrogate the "armistice" by sending armor across the border--before Saakashvili started his offensive in motion. Then I could believe that the Georgian thrust north was a last-minute, desparate attempt at a "Hail Mary" move. A move that quickly went wrong, as most poorly-planned attacks do in the face of a superior enemy (with air supremacy).

We'll see.

Posted by: AMac Author Profile Page at August 31, 2008 9:30 PM

I have to admit - all the circumstantial evidence seems to strongly suggest to me that your first scenario is what happened. But the one thing that bothers me - all the details make sense, but it's hard to understand how Saaka. could have been so wrong. It makes me want to look for some path by which he could have been fed misinformation about Russian plans re intervention. It just doesn't make sense that he'd have thought they wouldn't intervene, or that even that they'd do so slowly.

As to the tactical mistakes you mention- that's part of why it's so hard to believe that this was really a response to a Russian action. Like you say,
This:

It seems that it was not--that bombarding and then occupying the city of Tskhivali was the main item on the agenda. is what they did, or certainly what they had as #1 priority. They didn't act, in a military manner, like their response was primarily to stop a Russian invasion.

I don't know how you could blow up a Russian base in Tshinkivali, kill ~20 Russian troops, and not expect them to respond. I don't know how you could expect to reoccupy the territory with 1000 soldiers inside it, and not expect them to respond. It doesn't make sense.

What does make sense, sort of, it occurs to me, is that the Georgians invaded before the Russians started mass movements into the tunnel, but the Georgians for some reason became totally convinced that the Russians were about to invade said tunnel. The tactical decisions are still funny, but maybe they felt that the capital was too dangerous to bypass.

Posted by: glasnost Author Profile Page at August 31, 2008 9:55 PM
> but the Georgians for some reason became totally convinced that the Russians were about to invade said tunnel. The tactical decisions are still funny, but maybe they felt that the capital was too dangerous to bypass.
In order to win, we should operate at a faster tempo or rhythm than our adversaries--or, better yet, get inside [the] adversary's Observation-Orientation-Decision-Action time cycle or loop
(Speculation alert)

It seems likely that the successor agencies to the KGB and GRU have agents well-placed in the Georgian military and government. The reverse is probably not true to any great extent; I doubt the General Staff or the 58th Army worries about being penetrated by Georgian intelligence.

These could be ingredients that a ruthless and calculating Russian leader could use to "get inside Saakashvali's OODA loop." Feed the right information at the right time. "The 58th's BMPs are exiting the Roki Tunnel!" (when OSCE monitors and satellite photos will later show that they had not (yet) entered). "Mr. President, there's persuasive evidence that the Russians are bluffing. Their forces can't risk traveling all the way to Didi Gupta. They haven't been resupplied since July's maneuvers. Their jets are all grounded for maintenance. Back-channel discussions show the South Ossetians are ready to fold, if we show a strong hand..."

Designed to give Putin the spark that he wanted.

Posted by: AMac Author Profile Page at August 31, 2008 10:42 PM

U also didn't mentioned joint Georgia-US military manoeuvres prior to the georgian invasion, directly at the border with South Ossetia, with 1000 georgian & 800 american special forces, training to fight against militia. At the moment of georgian invasion, Russian 58th army was only preparing itself to the planned military manoeuvres at the russian side of rockis & it's became the main reason of most human loses amongst russian military during the conflict, most of the tanks had enough training arsenal & very little of real ammunition! When they received an order to help ossetians they had no time to do anything about it, in fact many soldiers thought that russian demonstration of force will be enough for georgians to withdraw, they didn't had much information about what was going on. In Russia most of the people thought that SO will share the fate of Adzharia, and Abhazia will be next, so it was a big relief when our military forces came to help our peacekeepers & ossetians. I think Saakashvili also thought so, that Russia will not interfere. Kozacs, chechens & ingushetians in SO before conflict? It's rubbish, especially ingushetians, don't forget ossetian-ingushetian conflict, they are not very friendly to each other, chechens militaries came with 58th army, kozacs not a military force in Russia, it's not even a militia, it's more like an old tradition in Russia. My grandfather was real military kozac in the White Movement against Reds (communist), he was have to move to China with his family at the end of civil war, where my mother was born. He died there before they had a chance to move back to Russia after Stalin died.

P.S. Yagoda & Yezjov were short time tools of Stalin's bloody policy in SU, they were executed after fulfilling his plans, Beria was much more than just a tool, he was enjoying shared power with Stalin on all levels, especially about females, and was stopped only after Stalin's death, when his was going to take Stalin's place.

to mg: It's a lie, Stalin's father was not ossetian & u know that, he was georgian, from peasant's family of Didi-Lilo village at Tifliz region, he was a shoemaker & his full name was Vissarion Ivanovich Djugashvili. Stalin was born in Gori, also Tifliz region, his mother was from the family of peasant-slaves from Gambareuli village near Gori.

Posted by: neborator Author Profile Page at September 1, 2008 3:10 AM

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/7591509.stm

Anger at death of Kremlin critic

"A preliminary investigation is being carried out into the incident as a result of which Yevloyev was killed," Vladimir Markin, a spokesman for the investigations unit of the prosecutor general's office in Moscow told Reuters.

Mr Markin said police had tried to bring Mr Yevloyev in for questioning but that an incident occurred in which he received a gunshot wound that led to his death.

Local police reports said Mr Yevloyev had tried to seize a policeman's gun when he was being led to a vehicle. A shot was fired and Mr Yevloyev was injured in the head.

Starting to seem a lot like the Cold War, to me. And "business as usual" for the Soviet Union.

Posted by: programmmer_craig Author Profile Page at September 1, 2008 3:28 AM

KolyaV,

Yes, I know, thank you.
My point was not not to exonerate Stalin and Beria deeds but rather to show that blaming Georgians for Stalin is as stupid as blaming Russians for Putin.

Posted by: leo Author Profile Page at September 1, 2008 3:45 AM

programmmer_craig,

Actually, my signs of beginning are Litvinenko and Politkovskaja if not earlier. West is conveniently blind and stupid. They will cry later.

glasnost,

You are trying to be rational about these events from military point of view. Your approach is wrong.
Try explaining to yourself why brotherly nation of Georgia is so much hated by brotherly nation of Russia. And while at it try explaining to yourself why each and every former brotherly nation would rather be dead than get under arm of their loving big brother again and after Georgian incident are scared shit-less.

Posted by: leo Author Profile Page at September 1, 2008 4:07 AM

to leo: that is what u think!!! russians don't hate georgians, we have more than a million of georgians living in Russia, there are a lot of them in Moscow too, and not even one conflict or act of violence against them, since the conflict started, we have georgian restoraunts everywhere, people here, georgians, russians, or any other nationalities don't like Saakashvili, but not georgians, they were misslead by lies & anti-russian propaganda, the same as u doing now, so instead of asking, answer yourself, why do u hate russians so much? The other nations? Don't call couple a guys like Ushenko the other nations, he's supported only by 5% of all ukranians, and almost all of them are ultra nationalists from Western Ukraine. Normal people don't afraid russians, millions of them come here every year, some for work, business or pleasure, many choose Russia as a land of opportunities & their new home, take chinese, moldovians, ukranians, azerbaidjanians, armenians, tadjics, uzbeks and many others for example, here they can forget about any hostilities they had to each other back home, it's like in US, people of different nationalities united by one country. There is no SU anymore, it's dead, i see you like it's corpse, well take it as a souvenir, from Russia with love...

Posted by: neborator Author Profile Page at September 1, 2008 7:54 AM
More background. US says warned Georgia against Russia fight (Reuters, 8/19/08) --
The U.S. warned Georgia against a fight with Russia, a senior U.S. diplomat said on Tuesday...

"Our message was consistent to our Georgian colleagues ... 'Avoid a direct military confrontation with Russia at all costs. You cannot prevail. It simply is not possible,'" said [U.S. diplomat] Matt Bryza. "Russia is 30 times as big as Georgia, its military is several times as large."

"It can almost instantaneously roll tanks in. And then even if you succeed miraculously in stopping the tanks, and the infantry, and the mechanized infantry, which move very quickly, it's the air power that's finally going to get you. And that is what happened."
Posted by: AMac Author Profile Page at September 1, 2008 8:04 AM

"My point was not not to exonerate Stalin and Beria deeds but rather to show that blaming Georgians for Stalin is as stupid as blaming Russians for Putin."

No problem. I was surprised by the question, but that's because I didn't guess the motive behind it. I thought it was a straightforward query. I never thought you (or anyone here) was trying to exonerate Stalin and Beria.

Yes, nobody should be blamed by the fact that Stalin was Georgian and Putin is Russian. Alas, many Georgians still admire Stalin and many Russians admire Putin. (To be fair, though, Putin should not be placed in the same category as Stalin.)

Posted by: KolyaV Author Profile Page at September 1, 2008 9:32 AM

to neborator:
"Joseph Stalin was born as Ioseb Besarionis Dze Jughashvili... in Gori, Tiflis Governorate to Besarion Dzhugashvili, an Ossetian cobbler who owned his own workshop,8 and Ketevan Geladze a Georgian who was born a serf."
This is straight from Wikipedia... But he was always considered to be georgian. There are tons of ethnic groups in georgia that intermarry each other. but why are we arguing this point? we can't blame the nations for what their "representatives" did. Beria killed 10,000 georgians only during 1924 georgian nationalistic uprising.

Posted by: mg Author Profile Page at September 1, 2008 10:02 AM

Leo, obviously there is now a lot of hostility between Georgians and Russians. I definitely don't want to pain a false and rosy picture. But let's not exaggerate things. As Glasnost wrote, a substantial percentage of Georgians in the world live in Russia itself. Many of them chose to live in Moscow rather than Tbilisi (unfortunately, now they'll probably encounter more difficulties from Russian nationalists). Another interesting thing to keep in mind, is that in the 1990s a good number of ethnic Georgians who were expelled by the Abkhaz chose to settle in Russia instead of Georgia. I'm sure there a lot of things they don't like about Russia, but if they saw Russia as an evil enemy, they would have not chosen to go and stay in Russia. Moreover, they are free to go to Georgia.

As to Ukraine and Russia. Yes, there are problems, but the vast majority of Russians and Ukrainians get along and don't see much a difference between themselves. Intermarriage has been common for centuries. Many Russians have Ukrainian last names and many Ukrainians have Russian last names. In terms of hostily to Russians, there is a huge difference between Lviv and Kiev.

Posted by: KolyaV Author Profile Page at September 1, 2008 10:08 AM

to KolyaV: I don't think they will, especially now, when most of nationalists leaders are in jail, goverment are really quite effective against them so far, first they didn't thought that it's serious, but after certain events they took it seriously, seems to me that anti-fa are also wining this & getting much stronger than skinheads, who are very weakened by the police,in any case georgians here are very good adopted to our life & society, they simply became a part of it long time ago.
to Mg: Dzhugashvili is a typical georgian family name, in SU times he was called The best of Georgians, in all historical sources i could find it's written that his father was georgian, and shvili it's typically georgian like Smith for britts & Ivanov for russians

Posted by: neborator Author Profile Page at September 1, 2008 3:29 PM
The English-language version of a lengthy Sept. 1 Der Speigel analysis of the Russia-Georgia War went online today. The part of the article that deals with the OSCE in Georgia on August 7/8:
Saakashvili, contrary to his own version of events, apparently ordered the attack on South Ossetia before the Russian tanks entered the province from the north via the Roki Tunnel.

This was reported by military observers working with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) who were in Georgia at the time. Information from tapped phone conversations involving Georgian political leaders may have also made its way into the reports, which have been leaked from OSCE headquarters in Vienna. One source who is personally familiar with the reports summarized the findings as follows: “Saakashvili lied 100 percent to all of us, the Europeans and the Americans.”

Just last week, the Georgian president told Germany’s mass-circulation Bild newspaper: “We respected the cease-fire. It wasn’t until the Russian tanks rolled into South Ossetia that we deployed our artillery.” The OSCE reports also indicate that Saakashvili attacked the civilian population while they were asleep in their beds.
There is also this re: Ukraine:
This summer Duma foreign policy expert Konstantin Satulin boasted that the Russian fleet will remain in Sevastopol after the agreement under which the Kremlin currently maintains its military presence here runs out in 2017. Satulin, who is close to Putin, also threatened Ukraine with a "powerful popular movement for the unification of the Crimea and Sevastopol with Russia."
The OSCE is denying Der Spiegel's account.
... OSCE spokesperson Martin Nesirky called the [the portions of the] article in Der Spiegel [relating to the OSCE mission in Georgia] "ludicrous"...

"The OSCE's mission to Georgia makes regular reports that are distributed to all 56 participating states in the organisation, including the Russian Federation and Georgia," Mr Nesirky added in a statement.

"None of these reports contains information of the kind mentioned in the Der Spiegel story."

"The OSCE's military monitoring officers do not have access to the Roki tunnel and therefore would not have been in a position to report, one way or the other, on the timing of Russian tank movements."
Posted by: AMac Author Profile Page at September 1, 2008 5:13 PM

A couple of news items from Radio Free Europe:

A Million Georgians Rally Against Russian 'Aggression'

Border Villages Being 'Russified'

Posted by: Michael_B Author Profile Page at September 1, 2008 8:48 PM

to neborator (aka self-proclaimed expert on Georgia):
Please don't teach me what last name endings are georgian, ossetian, armenian, azeri, abkhazian, and for that matter mengrelian, imeretian, kakhuri, guruli, svanuri etc.
Dzhugaev is what is said to be Stalin's father's oringin. But why do you keep arguing this point, why do you care so much about Stalin's father's origin. Stalin and Beria being from Georgia only means that they killed more Georgians than they would've otherwise killed.
Yes, Stalin himself was always considered to be Georgian. I never said otherwise. And by the way, isn't he still very popular in Russia according to some russian poll. And pleeeeeaaaaaaaassseee do me a huge favor and don't reply with a silly comment like saying he is more popular in Georgia or something like that.

Posted by: mg Author Profile Page at September 1, 2008 8:58 PM

No-no, mg. In '72, I was at a conference in Tbilisi; in my hotel (it might have been named Iberia, but I am not sure), there was Stalin's portrait on the wall in the staircase - standing, about 8 foot tall, gaudily painted. I was duly impressed, and later noticed a number of other statues and pictures in various places. From Tbilisi, we went to Moscow, where I did not see a single picture of Stalin.

Several weeks ago,I saw a picture in the NYT - of Stalin square in Gori. Imagine finding Hitler Platz in (say) Munchen! So we know something about Georgians and Stalin, and what we know is not good. Nobody should blame Georgians for having produced Stalin, just like nobody should blame Germans for having produced Hitler. But we SHOULD (and do!) blame Georgians for having Stalin's statues and portraits where they do not belong. Some of us feel that it by itself is a disqualification to the membership in NATO, a reason to deny our serious help, and an obstacle to being considered a civilized nation.

Posted by: lordcanning Author Profile Page at September 1, 2008 9:44 PM

KolyaV: While Russians can not be blamed for having produced Putin, they can be blamed for supporting him. And, according to my understanding, they loved Stalin like a father, a mother, and an uncle - all rolled into one. And he was exterminating them like them was bacteria...

And now Russians are at it again - they love Putin like a father and a mother rolled into one (the uncle is on the way). Of course, Putin is no match to Stalin - and Russia is a much smaller country (in large part, due to Stalin's stellar performance). And in any case, there is no Hitler to help him, most of Eastern Europe is in the NATO, and NATO is NOT the League of Nations. So, poor Putin is reduced to bullying Georgians, of all things! Ukraine is the one to watch: he will try to gobble it up one way or another - unless his house of cards collapses first.

Posted by: lordcanning Author Profile Page at September 1, 2008 10:19 PM

to mg: i am not an expert in georgia, i'm using open to all historical sources, i understand why u don't like me mentioning that Stalin & Beria were georgians & LORDCANNING absolutly right, georgian politics, including president Saakashvili are cultivating this image of the "great georgian". In Russia, Stalin, Beria (same goes to Lenin & others) are horrible past, murderers of millions, but we don't mix those two with normal georgians, except those in Georgia who admire this bloody pair, for us it's the same as skinheads or nazis.

to LORDCANNING: it's absolutly different figures, Stalin for us is the same as Hitler, Putin for us more like Churchill for britts, as for Churchill for us it's the same as Putin for u now. I'm anti-fa & anti-communist as was Churchill & Putin now, but Churchill also was russofobic & he left this legacy to the west. Putin is very strong figure, not a powerless drunken Eltchin and that's exactly why some of u don't like him, his more like czar Peter the First, who also was hated at the West for being strong & powerfull, but will always be admired here in Russia. And u know what, it was not a blind love for Stalin as u said, it was no other way, my grandfather was sent to jail for 10 years simply for a joke about Stalin, ever u love him or die or go to jail, that's how it was plus powerfull propaganda, with all everything else banned from people's lives, simply no other choice. In present Russia we support Putin for his ideas about Russia being strong, independent & democratic & we can joke about Putin, say anything we want about Putin, criticize his actions & etc. U simply don't have now such strong political figure in the West, it's a primitive feeling: we hate what we afraid. U should be more open minded, we simply want mutual respect and understanding, friendship & partnership are & will be always better than hate and fear.

Posted by: neborator Author Profile Page at September 2, 2008 2:20 AM

I SUSPECT THE WHOLE CONTENT OF THIS ARTICLE, WHEN THE WHOLE WORLD MEDIA AIRS LIES ABOUT RUSSIA, WILL BBC OR CNN SPARE A CHANCE TO MALIGN RUSSIA.

EVEN IF RUSSIA THROWS A STONE AT ANY WESTERN COUNTRY, THE WESTERN MEDIA WILL HIGHLIGHT IT AS 'RUSSIAN AGRESSION, 24*7 TO CORRUPT PEOPLES MIND.

Posted by: CaptPopov Author Profile Page at September 2, 2008 6:39 AM

I think I'm being totally misunderstood. I would never defend Stalin, Beria, Lenin and the rest of the thugs. I never said anything positive about them.
lordcanning:
you could have seen many things that were terribly wrong all over the USSR in 1972. Please don't single out Georgia. Those were not our best times.
As to Stalin's statue still standing in Gori, I agree it's totally disgraceful and should be unacceptable for Georgia. If I were in Georgia I would be "fighting" for taking it down.
I'm sorry, I don't mean to start another petty argument, but isn't Putin's government still using Soviet communist symbols. I saw just a glimpse of Mayday parade and was surprised they still use red flags, stars, hammer and sickle etc.

Posted by: mg Author Profile Page at September 2, 2008 7:56 AM

This thread has become too unwieldy so this is my last comment.

Neborator, Churchill was an anticommunist, but he was not Russophobic. If you read some of the stuff he wrote about Russia during World War I and the Russian Civil War (and shortly afterward), it will be clear to you that he was not a Russophobe. As to Putin, well, he knows the mentality of post-Soviet Russians and is skillfully blending elements of the the Old Russia and the Soviet Union into a mythical kasha that many in today's Russia find appetizing. For example, besides general platitudes about regrettable mistakes he has never denounced the legacy of Dzerzhinsky, and Putin is on record as being proud of being a Chekist.

Let me be clear on this: with respect to her recent conflict in Georgia, I think Russia was justified in striking against Georgia and securing Abkhazia and South Ossetia. With that I'm not saying that there were no self-serving reasons behind Russia's actions. In addition, by not condemning Russia's general military response, I'm not condoning the abuses that took place.

I hope that in a couple of months our knowledge of the facts of this conflict will become more detailed and objective. For instance, I would like to find out why the Georgian Army performed so poorly. After all, according to their own figures Georgian military casualties for the entire conflict were fairly light, and yet in their retreat they abandoned an enormous quantity of intact military equipment. I cannot imagine the Chechens doing the same.

Posted by: KolyaV Author Profile Page at September 2, 2008 8:20 AM

HI Michael
What a post - very long but well worth the read and you have obviously stirred up a hornet's nest with all these comments. I, for one have learnt a lot and it just shows what a shame it is that there isn't more information out there about the situation - the media is so strangely quiet about this situation.
Please keep writing

Posted by: Tamara Author Profile Page at September 2, 2008 1:26 PM

neborator,

I thought of Putin as being somewhat Peter the Great. The person who is charged with difficult task of restoring Russia in all its glory. And at first he appeared to be doing just that. Even Khodorkovsky incident, totally bogus, I viewed as necessity even though it was already a beginning. I just did not want to believe it (call me a fool).
Then Putin started plucking those who spoke against him and it immidiately became apparent where Putin is leading Russia.
Still, I thought of it as internal Russian matter. Now Putin decided to export his understanding (по понятиям) of the world view. And that is too dangerous.

Now, to answer the charge of my 'mistaken' perception that Russian-to-Georgian hate exists. Yes, I believe it does. It may or may not existed in the past, however today it does.
Here is how it was done.
1. For month Putin controlled MSM was building negative perception of Georgia and Georgians to make sure that when necessary Russian Soldat (soldier) will not hesitate to kill former ally or even friend. Still it was long shot but combined with #3 (see below) it was recipe for hate-success.
2. Then Putin would be carefully provoking Saakashvili into stupid action. So carefully that Putin will be able to maintain plausible deniability at all times. Sure enough Saakashvili swallowed it, hook, line and sinker. Saakashvili (perhaps easily predictable) decides to start his stupid war when Putin is out of the country. It is like for Al Capone to be in Florida on Feb, 14 of 1929. Beautiful.
3. Still, negative perception has to be strong otherwise it would not work. So, (appears to be bogus) story about 1400+ innocent Ossetians killed by blood thirsty Georgians had to be created to make sure army is ready to kill. After all to average Russian soldier and average Russian citizen it (genuine perception) looks like they are fighting Fascism and liberating oppressed.
4. This reason is not related to Georgians but can easily be used to strengthen hate against anybody - crappy life average Russian leads. Which in simplest terms can be translated into "I hate you because your life is better than mine".
5. One more reason not related to Georgians but can easily be used to justify anything - Russian people's desire to feel strong and respected. Unfortunately they confuse 'respected' with 'being afraid of' and for some reason believe that defeating disorganized enemy armed with limited arsenal of antiquated weapons translates into 'being strong'.

About Putin's cult of personality. No, it is nowhere near Stalin's level but it exists. Putin can do no wrong in the eyes of majority of Russian citizens. I see it only going up with time. As to some open criticism of Putin still existing - concentrate on 'still'. Surely you are realizing that there is much lesser number of media outlets critical of Putin today that few year back. Few court jesters are alowed to exist to pacify Western fools and it works perfectly. Ask Americans how would they accept the law, which could land them in jail for criticizing American President (not threatening, just criticizing).
There is also a possibility that we are seeing somewhat different phenomenon. Not cult of personality but cult of party to which Putin and Medvedev belong.

PS. I may be delayed with my reply.

Posted by: leo Author Profile Page at September 2, 2008 1:52 PM

I am weak-willed. THIS instead of my previous one is my last comment on this thread.

In reply to Leo's five points.

1. I would word things differently, but in general I agree that Russian MSM has been portraying Saakashvili and his government under a bad light. We can say, though, that some of Georgia's pronouncements made it easier for Russia's MSM to do that.
2. I certainly don't know whether Putin purposefully provoked "Saakashvili into stupid action." However, since Putin is both shrewd and ruthless it is certainly in the realm of possibility that he would try such a thing. This, of course, does not absolve Saakashvili and his military and intelligence advisors from such a stupid and costly mistake.
3. Yes, the claims of over 1,400 dead civilians and genocide perpetrated by the Georgians were exaggerations that the Russians exploited to their advantage. I was pissed off at those lies. Keep in mind, though, that in a war situation false rumors often take a life on their own. Two wrongs don't make one right, but let us remember that the US has also used exaggerations and outright falsehoods to further its case in both wars against Saddam Hussein (two quick examples: the 1990 false story of Iraqi soldiers sadistically throwing out newborn Kuwaiti babies from their hospital incubators; and all the lies about Jessica Lynch's 2003 ordeal in Iraq.)
4. This point has too much psychological speculation to comment on it.
5. I agree that many Russians are childishly hung up on the respect thing. But I've noticed something amusing. Let me quote you: "believe that defeating disorganized enemy armed with limited arsenal of antiquated weapons translates into 'being strong'." Isn't ironic that the same wording can be applied to how some (not all) Americans reacted to the US's easy defeat of the Iraqi Army?

Posted by: KolyaV Author Profile Page at September 2, 2008 8:03 PM

to mg: Russian army has it's own russian atributes & symbols, sometimes some soldiers use old symbolics just for kicks, as sometimes americans use old flag of southern states.

to KolyaV: Putin was a director of FSB, everybody knows that and at first, journalists were constanly asking him about that & he was simply telling about his past, not showing that his was proud of being chekist but an officer & gentelmen. FSB have no over legacy, as national security service it was founded by Dzerzhinski and there was no other agency like this in Russia before revolution, except "ohranca", but it was a police unit. Atleast one US president was the former director of CIA, so what, we were not hysteric about that like some people in the West about Putin now, it's a political agenda for the western politics to blow out an eliphant out of a mouse that he was chekist, to scare people, to make them think bad about new charismatic & strong russian political leader, and it worked, people are forgetting that first & the bloodiest war in Chechnya was before Putin & was Eltchin's fault.

To Leo: Khodorkovsky was not an incident, he's a common criminal, who as Berezovsky & Gusinky, was trying to use his power & money to restore an old order of u can do what ever u want if u are super rich. U can find a lot of blood & dirty deeds in their going to money & power histories. It was a time of mass corruption & paid killigs & Putin stopped that, showing this guys that they are not above the law & they don't own this country, we all here saw this, this people had no shame or limits of what they were doing, nothing could satisfy their greed & desire for power, they wanted to be absolute, i think one way or another, sooner or later, they would of kill each other for that.
So this people wasn't just spoking against him, they simply felt that their time of I can do in Russia what ever i want is coming to an end, so many of them felt another need, need for protection & they found it, their stories about horrors of Putin were gladly met and adopted for the same political reasons as i wrote above.
U beleive because u want to beleive, but beleives without proofs is more like a religion & if the majoriry for u is not a democracy than your religion is something else...
Putin wasn't building anything against georgians, against Saakashvili yes, who was always giving a reason for that with his russophobia. There was no such propaganda in the russian army, because it's international, including georgians. Saakashvili was doing the same as Ushenko and his actions were simply a reflection of his western choice. Help me US, I'm liitle, but proud, save me from terrible Russia... Just a political act, nothing more, he had great teachers for that in Georgia (Shivardnadze) & US. Many our politics were at the Olympics when conflict started, following your logics u might say the same thing about Bush...Nobody asked georgians to be so violent and to kill so many civilians. We don't lead crappy lives, we have crappy neighbours, lives are fine, all the opportunities are open for those who not lazy and ready to seize them. For many years we have georgian criminal society (one of the biggest crime family in Russia) and i don't see any social blast about that. We don't confuse anything, we just don't want US missiles at our backyard, it's u, who confusing us with US, that's who likes to be mighty & "to be afraid of" & and doesn't respect anybody except itself. There are plenty of media here who's critisizing him on the daily bases, unfortunatly for them they're simply out of our trust & and it's not just because of Putin, it's one-sided way of showing Russia by the western mass media. Of course u can find here a small group of West Will Help Us idea supporters, but it's getting smaller every day for the same reason, people are simply growing tired of western way of showing how bad & ugly we're in their eyes. Buy yourselves a glasses & look at the calender, it's 21 century, SU is dead & burried long time ago. Don't look for the black cat in the dark room, especially if there is no cat there. I don't know where u found your perspectives on our "crappy" lives, but it's wacky, u mixing different times with different events and thinks that u see the whole picture, it's like Tamara above finally found something she wants to beleive in & it doen't matter for her if it's truth or lies, she just wants to beleive, no matter what. And how far do u think this world will go, with such blind faith in evil?

Posted by: neborator Author Profile Page at September 2, 2008 9:03 PM

I didn't know that mutual respect is such a bad thing. In our case we are talking not about personal respect, but about respect to our national interests. U want us to respect yours, then respest ours, and it will be more peacefull & secure world for everybody. Let's be grown-ups about this.

Posted by: neborator Author Profile Page at September 2, 2008 9:16 PM

Neborator, Putin worked for the KGB, not the FSB. Moreover, even if he only worked for the foreign intelligence branch of the KGB, I don't see that KGB branch as the morally equivalent of the CIA. Not that I hold the CIA in high esteem, but the KGB was much much worse. Putin never denounced Iron Feliks, a truly evil man, and he praised Andropov. As I wrote, Putin knows the mentality of the post-Soviet Russians quite well. Because many Russians don't know their history that well, Putin is able to mix into an incongruous mythical kasha incompatible ingredients.

Putin is obviously good at what he does. Remember, though, that Mafia Dons are also good at what they do.

Posted by: KolyaV Author Profile Page at September 2, 2008 9:55 PM

"Yes, the claims of over 1,400 dead civilians and genocide perpetrated by the Georgians were exaggerations that the Russians exploited to their advantage. I was pissed off at those lies. Keep in mind, though, that in a war situation false rumors often take a life on their own."

Sorry, the Russian media claimed 2000 civilians were killed in the initial stages of the war. They made repeated claims of Georgian ethnic cleansing and genocide, and then they barred nearly a dozen major media outlets and 2 human rights organizations who wanted to confirm their accounts.

Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch reports on a systematic campaign by Russia and South Ossetians to burn Georgian villiages to the ground. Dates and satellite photos are available here:

http://www.hrw.org/english/docs/2008/08/28/georgi19712.htm

HRW initially confirmed 70 deaths due to the intial Georgian actions, later revised upward to 140. The civilian toll caused by the Russian and South Ossetian forces can not be determined due to their continued occupation.

Posted by: pj48 Author Profile Page at September 3, 2008 12:28 AM

to KolyaV: I see you don't know that Putin was a director of FSB and before that he was working for Sobchak (Putin thinks of him as a friend & mentor), who still beleived to be one of the first real democrates in Russia in the eyes of the West, and before that Putin was in the foreign department of KGB. I don't remember Putin saying that he was very fond of Iron Felix. Emergency Commission & People's Commissariat of Internal Affairs were horribly bloody organisations, but i don't see very big difference between CIA & KGB, both bloody & corporate, first still bloody, the second is dead & rotting in hell. Why don't u mention state department & white house, how about their kasha & manipulation skills. We have an old russian saying: they see small sand thing in the eyes of the stranger, but don't see the whole tree in their own...
For sure we know our own history much better than 99.9999999999999999% of people at the West.

to PJ48: Did they count all those who were already burried at the gardens of their destroyed houses, or who's bodies were hidden by their escaped relatives, or transported to North Ossetia? This is no occupation in Georgia, there're peacekeeper's posts at the security zones at the georgian territory near with the georgian borders with SO & Abhazia, 200-300 of motivated georgians are now travelling from one post to another, with anti-russian demostrations. Could it be possible if there was real occuoation? One-sided way of looking at this conflict is not making HRW an objective watcher in this matter & it's very convinient for Saakashvili to talk about great civilian losses or call georgian all destroyed by his army osseian villages (i mean who in the world will know the differance, they already used this trick, when they showed on TV their own artillery shooting at Tchinvali at the first hours of georgian invasion and called it russian artillery) & not showing any proofs because of imagenary occupatian. Major european leaders already acknowledged that russian troops were moved out of Georgia, except of those posts and they want them to be replaced by international forces.

Posted by: neborator Author Profile Page at September 3, 2008 4:03 AM

to KolyaV: are u from Germany by any chance?

Posted by: neborator Author Profile Page at September 3, 2008 4:36 AM

neborator,

When I say average Russian's life is crappy I am not saying just for the sake of saying it (nor I wish it).
Please, take very careful listen to what these soldiers are saying here and how:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-bSZmqCeiWU
Here is your pravda (truth), not from MSM, Putin's of Western, not from me. It is from yourself. You may not see it living in big cities but it is there, it is your base.
In regard to Khodorkivsky and the likes. You may be right and he may have be committed whatever crimes you say he did. Problem is, Khodorkovsky was judged and sentenced based on tramped up charges totally unrelated to likes of charges you make. This fact gives me a reason enough to look at whole thing with suspicion.
This whole KGB-FSB debate. I do not know if there is the difference nor I think there should be expected one. But does it matter? What are you going to do with old mentality and old hobbits?
And with this famous Putin's expression "Мочить всех в туалете" ("Start killing them [if I am not mistaking it was addressed to Chechen Wahabis at that time] in washrooms" - sort of criminal slang, goes for Putin's [KGB?] mentality).

"Putin wasn't building anything against georgians, against Saakashvili yes, who was always giving a reason for that with his russophobia. There was no such propaganda in the russian army, because it's international, including georgians. Saakashvili was doing the same as Ushenko"

Now, please, read what you wrote and try explaining to Ukrainians why they have no reason to worry about Putin's friendship. And while at it, please, also try explaining to Georgians that they were raped, robbed, humiliated, and taken their land away simply because Putin does not like Saakashvili (Will Putin return Abkhazia and SO and promise not to interfere into Georgian affairs if Georgians will serve Saak to Putin on silver platter?). BTW, US does not attack Venezuela just because Chavez is moron. It is not what great countries do.

Posted by: leo Author Profile Page at September 3, 2008 6:05 AM

Wow, both of you, Leo and Neborator are usually more rational in your comments.

Neborator, yes, you are right, Putin was an FSB head, but for much longer than that he was a KGB agent. As to the CIA and the KGB, it's simply laughable to view the CIA and the KGB as morally equivalent. How nice it would have been if the KGB was more like the CIA and less than, well, the KGB! And I'm saying that as someone who does not have much respect for the CIA. In addition, Putin had the chance to eliminate all Soviet and Communist symbols in Russia, but he chose to keep a good number of them. With his power and initiative Putin could have gotten rid of Lenin's mausoleum. Well, he didn't. Besides being ruthless, Putin is an astute man who knows the mentality of post-Soviet Russia.

Neborator, not that it is relevant, but in this thread I already wrote a couple of times of where I am from. Я - русский, но не совок.

Both Georgia and Russia used gross exaggerations. It's unfortunate for Russia because she did not need those exaggerations to justify her military response against Georgia. On the other hand, Georgia grossly exaggerated the number of Russian troops involved as well the extent of pillage and destruction. Loss of life in war is regrettable but inevitable. Having said that, the casualty figures (on all sides) are much lighter than most people imagine. This was not Chechnya: the Russian Army was somewhat more proficient and the Georgian Army was quick to retreat.

Leo, I think it would be perfectly fine for Russia to "return" to Georgia South Ossetia and Abkhazia if that is what the majority of South Ossetians and Abkhazians want. As you know, that's not what they want. And please don't say it's all the Russians fault. Russia obviously exploited the South Ossetian and Abkhazian situation to her advantage, but it cannot be denied that the actions and attitudes of the Georgians were the main reason why both the Abkhazians and South Ossetians didn't want to be part of Georgia and took up arms against Georgia in the early 1990s, and have been de facto independent from Georgia since then--over 15-years, not a trivial number of years.

(Personally, I think it would be fair for Abkhazia to cede some (but only some) land to Georgia.)

Posted by: KolyaV Author Profile Page at September 3, 2008 8:56 AM

Michael, I think you're right to take offense at Joshua's overblown attack. But he also was probably a bit offended by your "Truth" about who started it.

It's actually quite sad that both Georgians & Ossetians have bloody hands from '91, and now the Russians have bloody hands as well.

The fact that Georgia allows newspeople to be there, but Russia doesn't, puts a higher burden of proof on the Russians -- since they're not allowing independents to verify.

Flying a forbidden drone was also a Georgian provocation; before the Ossetian evacuation of the villagers. Dating the evacuation is a good timestamp of when Russia was preparing for war.

On glasnost's desire, so intense it's almost a need, to blame Georgia, it seems like any friend of the US is an enemy of glasnost. But if the Russians did tell the S.O. folk to leave, and did start using higher than allowed caliber guns against Georgia villages, these seem like reasons to call it Russia starting.

If one wants to accept all provocations less than tanks crossing the borders, perhaps Georgia started it.

Who started it is quite important for that crucial issue - moral superiority.
But how the invaders actually treat the locals is also important for the same moral superioty persons.

Posted by: Tom Grey - Liberty Dad Author Profile Page at September 3, 2008 9:02 AM

MESH has a few insightful, thought provoking reads:

Turkey’s troubles in the Caucasus

Putin’s war and the Middle East

Russia and the Middle East

Debacle in the Caucasus

Final two graphs from the initial link:

"It is not clear that Russia’s defeat of Georgia will restore it to the position of hegemon in the Caucasus, but it will increase Moscow’s ability to play the role of regional spoiler. Although many Turks and Armenians retain doubts about the propriety of closer relations between their countries, important constituencies inside the governments and societies of the two nations recognize the multiple benefits better ties would bring. Their difficulty is convincing others that improved relations are, in fact, conceivable. Thus were Gül and Sarkisian to meet this September and announce together that they intend that their states should, together with Azerbaijan, overcome their differences, their words would have a real impact.

"As the larger, more senior, more established, and more powerful state, Turkey is the better candidate to take the lead in the drive toward reconciliation. But it is not likely to happen. With Russia inside Georgia, and the Caucasus reverting again to a theater of Great Power confrontation, time is running out. Boldness is required. Yet whereas Moscow drew from its imperial collapse the lesson that fortune favors the bold, Ankara took from the Ottoman experience the lesson that extreme discretion is the better part of valor."

Boldness is in fact required, coupled with discretion however, and too much of one w/o the other is likely to occur in fits and starts absent assertive American leadership.

Posted by: Michael_B Author Profile Page at September 3, 2008 9:50 AM

Turkey’s troubles in the Caucasus, the corrected link

Posted by: Michael_B Author Profile Page at September 3, 2008 9:54 AM

Leo, you keep on mention Ukraine's fear of Russia. It's interesting, though, that in today's Ukraine Putin's approval rating is several times higher than Yuschenko's. Yes, it sounds strange, Ukrainians approve more of Putin than their own president.

Posted by: KolyaV Author Profile Page at September 3, 2008 10:27 AM

Earlier today I wrote:

"the casualty figures (on all sides) are much lighter than most people imagine. This was not Chechnya: the Russian Army was somewhat more proficient and the Georgian Army was quick to retreat."

Well, I don't know how accurate they are, but I just read Georgia's official interim casualty numbers:

"The officially registered number of Georgian soldiers killed in the conflict is 156 ...
The number of civilians killed is 69 ... Davit Bakradze, the parliamentary chairman, has denied that the authorities are distorting casualty figures. ... MP Targamadze also said that 176 Georgians had been released from the Tskhinvali police station and handed over to the Georgian side in a prisoner exchange. Seventeen of them were Georgian soldiers ... The Georgian side, he continued, had handed over to the Russian side six servicemen and to the South Ossetian side, 41 people, including militiamen."

http://www.civil.ge/eng/article.php?id=19384

Posted by: KolyaV Author Profile Page at September 3, 2008 11:59 AM

"Georgia grossly exaggerated the number of Russian troops involved as well the extent of pillage and destruction."

Sorry, this is also not true. If you know where to look, there are ample photos online of the destruction and looting, not of military installations as the Russian military and media claim, but of civilian locations. In Poti alone, there has been considerable reporting of looting and sabotaging civilian infrastructure done by La Monde and the London Times.

There have also been a number of reports from central Georgia that detail line item by line item the items the military and South Ossetian militias have stolen from private civilians. One reporter even posted an article detailing how Russians and South Ossetians coordinating the looting to occur at night to prevent media coverage.

That does not work so well when you have soldiers, soldiers families, and militia members posting trophy photos on Russian messageboards and websites. The London Times even reported rumors about a market set up just inside Abkazia to sell looted Georgian equipment.

Saying Georgia "grossly exaggerated" the amount of looting and destruction caused by Russian and South Ossetian forces is simply absurd on its face. Unlike Russia, Europe and America have a free press. Use it.

Posted by: pj48 Author Profile Page at September 3, 2008 1:14 PM

Robert Kagan, Power Play. Excerpt:

"Where are the realists? When Russian tanks rolled into Georgia, it ought to have been their moment. Here was Vladimir Putin, a cold-eyed realist if ever there was one, taking advantage of a favorable opportunity to shift the European balance of power in his favor -- a 21st century Frederick the Great or Bismarck, launching a small but decisive war on a weaker neighbor while a surprised and dumbfounded world looked on helplessly. Here was a man and a nation pursuing "interest defined as power," to use the famous phrase of Hans Morgenthau, acting in obedience to what Mr. Morgenthau called the "objective law" of international power politics. ..."

Posted by: Michael_B Author Profile Page at September 3, 2008 3:05 PM

As far as I understood there are Russian speaking people taking part in the conversation…
Can I ask to translate this article into Russian and place it somewhere in Runet? I’m afraid my English isn’t influent enough to do it by my self.
It seems very strange to me to see Georgian propaganda posters in English…It looks like well prepared campaign for western society…

Posted by: Lost_in_translation Author Profile Page at September 3, 2008 3:29 PM
Michael_B, thanks for those links. From Michael Reynolds' commentary appended to Debacle in the Caucasus --
Moscow understood very well both that Saakashvili could be provoked and that Washington... would be unwilling to support Georgia with anything more than lame rhetoric. Moscow then set about baiting Saakashvili and obtained the desired result: the saccharine hero of the Rose Revolution dropped his liberal-democratic pretenses and lashed out at the Ossetians with bombs and shells, seeking not dialogue but to impose his will by force of arms. With its “peacekeepers” now under fire, Moscow could, to its intense satisfaction, demonstrate to the region the hollowness of the American project in Eurasia by invading Georgia with impunity.

The result is an extraordinary embarrassment for the United States... The fact that Saakashvili’s own stupidity and rashness triggered the Russian assault will do little, I expect, to ease feelings of betrayal and exploitation [towards the U.S.] that are now building among the Georgians...

Saakashvili’s rash attack and Putin’s calculated aggression complement each other to remind us that international relations remain suffused with violence and the threat of violence, even at the level of states...

To John McCain: America can’t fight everyone everywhere. It is imperative now to review America’s commitments and draw up clear priorities as to what constitutes U.S. interests and what does not, and ensure that U.S. rhetoric is commensurate with U.S. capabilities.

To Barack Obama: don’t delude yourself into thinking that... the world will engage you in earnest dialogue. The forces of anti-Americanism are deeper than distaste for George Bush, and will seek to exploit America’s vulnerabilities. Indeed, you can be certain that some will attempt to turn your desire for dialogue against you.
(Switching gears,) a useful timeline of the war (with citations) is at Wikipedia.

Georgian Ambassador Alasania's two speeches at the U.N.S.C. meetings of August 8 (#5951 and #5952, on day two of the all-out war) can be accessed here.

Posted by: AMac Author Profile Page at September 3, 2008 3:50 PM

In my opinion, it is worth emphasizing that one of Georgia's key claims was that they were provoked into lunging North from Gori to Tskhinvali by their discovery that armored units of the 58th Army were transiting through the Roki Tunnel on the evening of August 7th. There has been no corroborative evidence in support of this assertion presented by Georgia, or anybody else. It appears likely that the 58th Army had been ready to make this move for some days or weeks, but that it did not begin until some time on August 8th.

Does the Government of Georgia stand by its version of events? If so, on what basis? If not, why was the passage of armor through the tunnel cited as a prominent causus belli?

Michael quotes Patrick Worms:
That evening, the 7th, the president gets information that a large Russian column is on the move. Later that evening, somebody sees those vehicles emerging from the Roki tunnel [into Georgia from Russia]. Then a little bit later, somebody else sees them. That's three confirmations. It was time to act.
Thomas Goltz implicitly concurred with Worm's version. Can Michael Totten, Mr. Worms, or Prof. Goltz enter these Comments to offer their current perspective on this important discrepancy? Posted by: AMac Author Profile Page at September 3, 2008 3:53 PM

Jack Matlock was the US Ambassador in Moscow during Reagan and Bush senior (1987-1991). Excerpts from a just published essay he wrote on Russia and Georgia (link at the bottom).

/////
Of course, the Russian intervention was brutal and an overreaction. ... However, most commentary has failed to note that U.S. and NATO actions over the past decade have set the stage for the Russian reaction. NATO bombed Serbia over human rights abuses in its sovereign territory without UN approval. It has occupied Kosovo ever since. Then, recently, the U.S. and many other countries recognized Kosovo independence, even though it is not independent in the full sense. It is, in fact a ward of NATO, which must still occupy it to keep order. At each stage of this process Russia protested, and before the recognition of Kosovo's independence warned that they considered South Ossetia, Abkhazia and Pridniestr comparable situations.

We now say that Russia must respect the "territorial integrity" of Georgia. The Russians can answer that they appealed in vain for the U.S. and NATO to do just that in the case of Serbia, to no avail. The U.S. said that they had to recognize Kosovo's independence because the Kosovars would never live under Serbian rule again given what had happened. Isn't that precisely what the Ossetians and Abkhazians are saying in respect to Georgian rule? Do they have any justification for feeling that way? Has everyone forgotten that one of the first things Gamsakhurdia did when he was elected to lead Georgia was to revoke the autonomy of South Ossetia and when the Ossetians resisted, laid siege to Tskhinvali in the middle of the winter? Gorbachev was too distracted, too weak politically at the moment, and too wary of using force (lest it lead to civil war) to intervene in Georgia, but the Ossetians fought back, and soon Georgia dissolved in a civil war of Georgians against Georgians. Only with Shevardnadze's return--and the help of Russian peacekeepers--was any semblance of order restored.

Let's face it. Georgia was handed its independence. Georgians did not have to fight the Soviet Union or Russia for it. And the first thing they did was to try to subdue minorities in their midst and fight among themselves.

Oh, and--by the way--when President George H.W. Bush spoke in Kiev on August 1, 1991, and warned the non-Russian republics to avoid "suicidal nationalism," he was referring to Gamsakhurdia's attempt to subdue South Ossetia by force. (We briefed the press on this point, but not much got through in the coverage.) ...
It should have been evident, from at least 1993, that the only way Georgia would regain sovereignty over South Ossetia and Abkhazia would be by letting tempers cool, developing their economy, and convincing--over time--the Ossetians and Abkhazians that they would be safer under Georgian sovereignty than as Russian-supported ministates. I believe Eduard Shevardnaze understood this, and whatever his other failings may have been, such as an inability to bring corruption under control, he did his best to avoid violent flare-ups. Saakashvili rejected this course and recklessly fell into the trap the Russians set. He is not stupid, and I can only conclude that he had been encouraged to believe that the U.S. would support an attempt to retake, first South Ossetia, then Abkhazia by force. This was the rationale for sending 2,000 Georgians to Iraq--to obligate the U.S., and eventually NATO, to support Georgia's territorial ambitions.

If such encouragement was given by elements of the Bush administration, it was utterly irresponsible. In other conflicts over territorial sovereignty, the U.S. has normally avoided taking sides but insisting that conflicting claims be settled peacefully, by negotiation, no matter how long it takes. (Note China and Taiwan or Kashmir, or Kurdish claims to parts of Turkey, etc., etc.) To have encouraged even implicitly a Georgian attempt (once again!) to impose its rule on Tskhinvali by force was utterly irresponsible.

[... Matlock a bit on Ukraine...]

... as of now, the majority of Ukrainians do not want to be in NATO and an effort to bring Ukraine into NATO would almost certainly split the country and virtually force Russia to demand a referendum in the Crimea on Ukrainian sovereignty. Want to guess who is likely to win that referendum? ...

... experience tells me that Georgia's future lies in developing the areas it really controls, making clear that it will not use force to try to regain South Ossetia and Abkhazia, and taking care--the way the Finns have done ever since the Winter War--not to poke Russia in the eye. Nothing can weaken any country more in the long run than trying to rule people who don't want to be ruled. Why not use foreign aid to rebuild, to integrate the refugees into Georgian society, to improve the economy and reduce corruption? If Liechtenstein can stay neutral, Monaco self-governing, and other mini-states scattered around Europe, why can't, at least for a time, South Ossetia and Abkhazia? (Russia is unlikely, barring further "provocations," to take them in formally.)

Saakashvili has made a serious mistake in letting Georgia become the spark of a great power confrontation. Nobody is going to benefit from this, for both Russia and the United States have much more important issues to deal with, particularly as regards nuclear weapons, terrorism and energy supplies. I believe that Russia's reaction has damaged Russian interests and that the evident attempt to use a form of Russophobia in the U.S. election campaign is very damaging to U.S. interests. But the country that will suffer most if the confrontation becomes more militarized will be Georgia. It needs a leader who understands this.

http://www.russiaotherpointsofview.com/2008/09/ambassador-jack.html

Posted by: KolyaV Author Profile Page at September 3, 2008 4:23 PM

Matlock should be obliged to provide evidence that the U.S. government encouraged Saakashvili in his territorial ambitions. As it is, he slides from offering speculation ("If such encouragement was given") to treating it as established fact ("To have encouraged even implicitly a Georgian attempt... to impose its rule on Tskhinvali by force was utterly irresponsible").

This is either sloppy reasoning or foreign-policy-as-domestic-US-politics.

Quoted earlier in this thread, US diplomat Bryza:
"Our message was consistent to our Georgian colleagues ... 'Avoid a direct military confrontation with Russia at all costs. You cannot prevail. It simply is not possible,'" said [U.S. diplomat] Matt Bryza. "Russia is 30 times as big as Georgia, its military is several times as large." "It can almost instantaneously roll tanks in. And then even if you succeed miraculously in stopping the tanks, and the infantry, and the mechanized infantry, which move very quickly, it's the air power that's finally going to get you. And that is what happened."
Posted by: AMac Author Profile Page at September 3, 2008 4:41 PM

I can not believe Jack Matlock'c Excerpts. He writes: "Let's face it. Georgia was handed its independence. Georgians did not have to fight the Soviet Union or Russia for it"

I can not believe he would be considered an expert. How can he say Georgians did not had to fight for it. My post below includes historic facts. (Soviet Russian goverment did not and could not deny it)

On April 9, 1989, a peaceful demonstration against the soviet rule in the Georgian capital Tbilisi ended in a massacre in which several people were killed by Soviet troops. At 4 a.m. on April 9, Soviet tanks and troops that have already surrounded the demonstration area started dispersing the crowd. People panicked. As it was reported later, the Soviet army left the demonstrators only one path to escape. Toxic gas and injuries from violent beating caused the death of twenty one people; thousands were injured. Majority of dead were woman and children. After the events of April 9, 1989 Parliamentary commission on investigation of events was launched by Anatoly Sobchak, member of Congress of People's Deputies of Soviet Union. After full investigation and inqueries, the commission condemned the military, which had caused the deaths trying to disperse demonstrators. The commission's report made it more difficult to use military power against demonstrations. Sobchak's report presented a detailed account of the violence which was used against the demonstrators and recommended the full prosecution of military personnel responsible for the April 9 event. On April 10, in protest against the crackdown, Tbilisi and the rest of Georgia went out on strike and a 40-day period of mourning was declared. People brought massive collections of flowers to the place of the killings. A state of emergency was declared, but demonstrations continued. On April 9, the second anniversary of the tragedy, the Supreme Council of the Republic of Georgia proclaimed Georgian sovereignty and independence from the Soviet Union.

So I don't think Georgia was given independance as claimed by Jack Matlock'c article. I think Georgia earned it with blood as usual.

Posted by: Dvalidze Author Profile Page at September 3, 2008 5:31 PM

Good points, AMac. Nobody, though, should doubt Matlock's patriotism and expertise. And yet he is another American who thinks that the US is not totally innocent here.

Posted by: KolyaV Author Profile Page at September 3, 2008 5:32 PM

they don't post my comments

Posted by: neborator Author Profile Page at September 3, 2008 5:36 PM

With all due respect, in my view, 20 or 25 dead during a demonstration, as tragic as it is, does not amount to much of an indepedence struggle. Hats off to Georgia for working on behalf of their independence, but truth be told, it wasn't that the Soviet Union fought hard to keep it. The USSR was already collapsing under its own weight. To limit it to the 20th Century, it cannot compare to Ireland's and Kenya's fight against the UK, Algeria's fight against France, and so on.

Posted by: KolyaV Author Profile Page at September 3, 2008 5:44 PM

And to respond to earlier comments... Stalin and Beria were Georgians and they were hated in Georgia. However, they were welcomed with open arms in Russia. So Just because Stalin was Georgian, does not say anything about the Georgian culture or the Georgian people. I know Putin mentioned the fact in his exclusive interview with cnn. He claimed all who support the idea of S. Ossetia and Abkhazia to be part of Georgia are "Stalinists" Now I really can not take Mr. Putin seriously after his comments. I read the entire interview and it made no sense. He talked about American hostages without saying there was any proof. The entire interview was based on rumors that he did not provide any proof for.

Posted by: Dvalidze Author Profile Page at September 3, 2008 5:47 PM

Nebarator. I agree with your comments below. I just wanted to make a point that it was not totally free.

"To limit it to the 20th Century, it cannot compare to Ireland's and Kenya's fight against the UK, Algeria's fight against France, and so on"

Posted by: Dvalidze Author Profile Page at September 3, 2008 5:51 PM

Dvalizde, it is a shameful truth that Stalin is admired by many (not all) in Russia. But it is also a shameful truth that Stalin is admired by many (not all) in Georgia. You simply cannot deny that. For instance, if Stalin is hated in Georgia, why after so many years of indepedence his statue is still so promimently displayed in Gori? Not that Georgia didn't have enough time to get rid of it (17 years?). Check out this recent photo:

http://img84.imageshack.us/img84/1023/stalingoriit1.jpg

Posted by: KolyaV Author Profile Page at September 3, 2008 6:48 PM

KolyaV:

"attitudes of the Georgians were the main reason why both the Abkhazians and South Ossetians didn't want to be part of Georgia and took up arms against Georgia in the early 1990s, and have been de facto independent from Georgia since then--over 15-years, not a trivial number of years."

I have no problem with the fact that Abkhazians and Ossetians (or is it just South Ossetians?) wish to be independent. Let them restore demographic picture, which existed on the moment tag of war between Georgia and Russia begun (1991 is it?), run independent referendum and I will wholeheartedly support any decision about their future they will make. And I do not have problem with them deciding to become part of Russia proper if that is their wish.
I am expressing my opinion on behavior of Putin/Medvedev. From practical point of view Bagapsh (Abkhazia), Kokoiti (SO) and Saakashvili are not powerful enough to influence anything.

About Ukrainian poll you mentioned.
I suppose it is possible. Do you happened to know which Ukrainian regions were polled?

Posted by: leo Author Profile Page at September 3, 2008 8:55 PM

neborator,

"they don't post my comments"

I am guessing here but does your post have a lot of links? It could be a reason. System appears to have some kind of bug, which prevents posting.

Posted by: leo Author Profile Page at September 3, 2008 9:45 PM

An important article in yesterday's NYT, Georgia Eager to Rebuild Its Defeated Armed Forces. To me, the article shows that:

  • Georgia's young and reckless leaders have no understanding of the causes of their defeat by Russia. ("Georgia’s own analysis is straightforward: its principal vulnerabilities... were its comparative weakness to Russian air power and its inability to communicate effectively in combat.")
  • The leadership has no intention of performing an after-action review that would offer insights into the disasterous crisis-management process of August 7. An effective review would highlight the critical-path choices that led to defeat... and identify who made those decisions.
  • Georgia's military intends to begin an extensive re-armament and expansion to give it both offensive and defensive capabilities. The focus is on advanced weaponry. There is no awareness that the country needs to replace the just-failed strategy with one that is better suited to Georgia's geographic, geopolitical, and ethnic realities.
  • Georgia's leaders are looking to the U.S. to support and fund its increased defense spending.

A revealing quote: "Mr. Saakashvili and his advisers also say that even though he has no tactical military experience, he was at one time personally directing important elements of the battle — giving orders over a cellphone and deciding when to move a brigade from western to central Georgia to face the advancing Russian columns."

Posted by: AMac Author Profile Page at September 4, 2008 7:35 AM

Enough already with the statue of Stalin in Gori. Yes, it should be down. What's even creepier is Lenin's mausoleum on Red Square. And also, all the Soviet symbols still being used by the gov. in Russia.

KolyaV:
"With all due respect, in my view, 20 or 25 dead during a demonstration, as tragic as it is, does not amount to much of an indepedence struggle. "
I understand you were trying to be as careful as you could phrasing your thoughts but there is still something wrong with this sentence. Ask the mother of a 16-year old girl who was chased by the russian soldier and beaten to death. It's easy for the outsiders, especially for russians to say independence was handed to us and "The USSR was already collapsing under its own weight." It was a bit more complicated than that. I think you are a bit simplifying things here.
Do you want more blood?
Please read about August 1924 uprising in Georgia against Bolsheviks?
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/August_Uprising_in_Georgia

10,000 people were executed after this uprising by Beria.

Posted by: mg Author Profile Page at September 4, 2008 8:27 AM

AMac, the Russians didn't do very well in my opinion. Their "defeat" of the tiny Georgian military exposed some substantial weaknesses in their own military capabilities. And, lets be realistic... Georgia's military never had a chance in an open confrontation with the Russian military. If the Russians try this again against a more formidable adversary, I think they are gonna get a serious bloody nose.

Posted by: programmmer_craig Author Profile Page at September 4, 2008 2:57 PM

programmer-craig,

FWI, I didn't detect any hubris or triumphalism in the assessment of the military analysts in Russia I had the chance to read. Actually, they are surprisingly candid in their criticism of the performance of the Russian Army. Although acknowledging some improvements, it seems that overall Russian analysts are not at all happy with much of what they saw. They acknowledge that if it weren't for what for them was a surprisingly very poor showing on the part of the Georgian forces, things would have been harder.

Posted by: KolyaV Author Profile Page at September 4, 2008 7:41 PM

"the Russians didn't do very well in my opinion. Their "defeat" of the tiny Georgian military exposed some substantial weaknesses in their own military capabilities."

I think it would be a mistake to judge Russian performance based on their losses. Russian/Soviet rulers where never big on caring about men.
"Plenty more where they came from and why not if it is for the greater good" sort of thing.
It would be better to concentrate on how quickly Russians can recover from their losses. And history tells us that in the past they were able to do it very quickly and even come out much stronger.

Posted by: leo Author Profile Page at September 4, 2008 7:45 PM

To Leo: I guess u right about that, i had 3 links in my comment, so i will post only part of it, cause without links it useless to post it complete, but check out new video from the mobile phones of georgian soldiers entering Tchinvali, it's first hours of invasion & u can hardly call this a police operation in order to restore order and country's integrity and it's clear there, that they had no idea that russian army will come to protect ossetians. I watch CNN & BBC daily, search the web for answers, i see many western circle's theories about why Russia "invade" Georgia. It's various, to take out Saakashvili, to gain oil control, to restore empire, cause we evil, not democrates and etc. I mean whose circles are ready to create any theory to help Saakashvili and i think that it's the main job now for people who's behind this article and others like this. I wonder why the author had problems with russian visa...??? No doubt that all involved sides had their agenda in this conflict, but i'm sure that we will never know all the truth...
here it is:
to Leo: It's a bull, we were warned about such provocations, that georgians will use slav looking people for such things, i know how russian miliraties lives, it's absolutly the same as shown here.
Of course people died from both sides & after watching first 2 videos u will understand how all this started, georgian soldiers were celebrating & cheering each other: Ossetia is ours! Come out, come where ever u are! And u will see what happend when one poor naive old man came out! Those georgians came to Tchivali absolutly sure that russian army will not come to help ossetians, u can see it on first two viseos, no resistance from anybody at all! And that makes Michael J. Tottens story a bull!
The charges are absolutly related, he's an accessory to murders, tax crimes (billions of dollars, all this guys stole atleast 500 billions of dollars in Russia) & etc. I see old mentality and opinion about Russia at the West, especialy in US, why u not mentioning that? U using specially selected events, facts & words, and interpritate it like U want, using this mentality. Tell me, what americans were saying about arabs after 9/11. I have a friend in Brooklyn, few days after 9/11 he told me that angry crowd of americans beat to the death two eastern looking guys in turbans, thinking that they were arabs, afterwords it became known that those to poor souls were indians. There u go, nice fluffy americans. No such thing here against georgians before or after their country's aggression against SO. Putin's expression u say? Green light and promise to the army and the people that this time they will not be deserted, forgotten & left to die, how it was at the first war against islamic radicals in Chechya. Americans are fighting against the same radicals in Afganistan & Iraq, what about their actins starting from Abu Grape? Old CIA mentality and habbits? We are kings of the world mentality?
It's not me, but Ushenko must explain to the Ukranian people his actions, don't u know whats going on there now? He has lost any trust of the Ukranian people completely and his caling them all traitors. How about that? Who's the real traitor here? We have relatives and friends there, and many of us do, & they support Russia & centuries of our friendship & partnership & it's not the ukranians who's worried about Putin, it's the people who want to make an enemies out of 2 brotherly nations, using old tools of fear & hate, but simply can't do it. Not Putin started it, u go explain them & ossetians why americans want them to kill each other. It's not his to return, they are independent now. Yeap, great coutries use morons like Saakashvili to do their dirty deeds.

To Dvalidze: They found an american passport of Michael Lee White at the deserted camp of georgian special forces not far from Tchinvali. In 1991 i was near White House in Moscow with my pregnant wife. It was not pretty here in Moscow too, but we beat the dying monster and we did it for u too, for everybody.
Anyway, we had a democratic right to choose the leaders of our nation, no matter if u like or not, but we did it & i think that it would be only fair to respect that choice. We are not like americans, we don't want to lead, we want to live, we had so called leadership for more than 40 years, not knowing that in fact we were slaves. We don't need for US or anybody to think for us, how to make us more democratic, in my experience it's absolutly undemocratic, it's not help at all (american actions all around our borders are perfect examples of that), we want to think for ourselves, we are not ignorant & not afraid & i think that using Putin's name at the republican's convension as some form of evil is absolutly wrong if they have any respect to my people & want to have good relationships with Russia.

Posted by: neborator Author Profile Page at September 5, 2008 4:35 AM

programmer_craig --

> AMac, the Russians didn't do very well in my opinion.

That is probably true in some important respects. I haven't commented on that point; in most regards the Russians performed "well enough". Certainly far better than the Georgians.

netborator --

Commentary without source material isn't very useful. You can't post lots of links in the comments here, but one or two should be okay. If formatting is a problem, go to tinyurl.com to get a tiny URL that you can post "naked." For instance, this "The Truth About Russia in Georgia" post is
http://tinyurl.com/5ssmz9

Re: the two-turbaned-Indians-beaten-to-death-by-vengeful-Americans-on-9/11 story. I think this is false. Even if true or partly true, I deny that it represents the typical or overall reaction of Americans to Muslims in the aftermath of that dark day. It was quite the opposite.

Re: Putin alleging that Michael Lee White was a U.S. provocateur who helped start the war. Could you do a quick Google search, then say what you found? My claim is that is a clumsy Soviet-style disinformation ploy gone bad.

Posted by: AMac Author Profile Page at September 5, 2008 6:02 AM

About the Michael Lee White story. Last I read, the Russians found a US passport under that name. Well, it turns out the passport was stolen a few years ago. Mr. White reported this, the stolen passport was invalidated and he got a new US passport. End of story. Until, that is, his passport was found in either Georgia or Ossetia and he suddenly found out that he's supposed to be some sort of US warrior secretly fighting in Georgia. I hope Mr. White has a good sense of humor.

Posted by: KolyaV Author Profile Page at September 5, 2008 7:38 AM

to AMac: Putin didn't said the name, we know it from general Nogovitsin, & i'm not surprised about US explanation of this, for a state department or CIA it's not difficult to fabricate a story of the teacher who had lost his passport in Moscow. It's not difficult to find the links i wrote about on ru.youtube.com
Check out georgians in Tchinvali & u will easily find them. I don't see any reasons for my friend living in USA over 20 years to lie about that. We all were shocked about what happened on 9/11 & were simply talking about what was going on.
Anyway i see americans like to deny everything even if it's truth, well it's understandable, but hey, don't take somebody's guilt, it's not your fault that nobody's perfect.

Posted by: neborator Author Profile Page at September 5, 2008 8:14 AM

netborator --

Some Americans, like some Russians and some Martians, I suppose, deny everything even if it's true. Well so what.

Why not focus on correspondents who are interested in the truth. Plenty of them around, too.

You might consider that your point of view could be more persuasive if you put more effort into expressing it in the most reasonable possible terms.

Supplying links helps a lot.

As far as White, I don't think you did that Google search yet, the first few entries are pretty conclusive...

Posted by: AMac Author Profile Page at September 5, 2008 8:48 AM

neborator, are you really a Georgian trying to make Russians look irrational and unhinged? If so, I'm afraid you are succeeding.

Posted by: KolyaV Author Profile Page at September 5, 2008 8:56 AM

Here is the link of a Moscow Times (English) article on White, the nefarious agent.

http://www.themoscowtimes.com/article/1010/42/370700.htm

Posted by: KolyaV Author Profile Page at September 5, 2008 9:10 AM

to KolyaV: so u think, if MLW was a CIA agent, CIA would confirm it? "Yes, MLW is a CIA agent and we sent him to Georgia." U really think they could say such a thing? So in this case, rational means naive?

to AMac: I did search google, pretty nice job, looks convincive! Thank u, mighty AMac for your words of wisdom, let the spirit of The Great Eagle guide u, say hello to the Great White Chief from me...Does that sounds reasonable to u?

Posted by: neborator Author Profile Page at September 6, 2008 3:19 AM

And meanwhile Russia - Georgia: 4-0
young football national teams met in Minsk yesterday, many people at the audience were holding posters "Russia & Georgia: Friends forever!"

Posted by: neborator Author Profile Page at September 6, 2008 3:32 AM

neborator:

but check out new video from the mobile phones of georgian soldiers entering Tchinvali,

Where is it?

it's first hours of invasion & u can hardly call this a police operation in order to restore order and country's integrity and it's clear there, that they had no idea that russian army will come to protect ossetians.

Most likely you are right. I am sure if Saakashvili knew what Russians had in store for him would've never fell into Putin's trap but what does it change or what does it prove?

I wonder why the author had problems with russian visa...???

Please, do not wonder. Author could not be guarantied to follow official party line. Pretty standard and pretty old KGB (call it FSB if you like) stuff. Nothing to wonder about.

No doubt that all involved sides had their agenda in this conflict

That I agree completely. To add, so do you and so do I.

but i'm sure that we will never know all the truth...

I disagree. Not necessarily. There is very serious matter of 1400+ dead Ossetians Putin used to justify military action against Georgia. If Saakashvili ordered those deaths he has to be brought to trial. But I do not think it is in Russia's best interest and here is why:
Putin talks a lot (constantly?) about equivalency between NATO's Kosovo invasion and Russia's Georgia invasion. There are two undisputed elements, which were present in NATO action and were necessary for Putin to have to make it look equivalent.
One, lengthy due process of warnings and threads to Serbs, which NATO went through prior to military action and ... Two, strong justification for military action, which makes fact of atrocities a perfect candidate.
We may argue whether Putin followed first part of the formula or not. However, he was missing one very strong (or very much required) element - justification.
1400+ innocent people dead is very much legitimate reason in the minds of many and especially in the minds of Russian people.
Where are those dead people?

It's a bull (I am assuming you are referring to the link I posted), we were warned about such provocations, that georgians will use slav looking people for such things, i know how russian miliraties lives, it's absolutly the same as shown here.

I do not doubt you were warned. You were warned not only to raise your vigilance but also to give Putin an opportunity to say "See, I told you so". Please, use your own judgement instead.
Oh, and movie is genuine too. Those are honest to goodness Russian citizens and I do not even need to see it. It is enough to hear it.

i know how russian miliraties lives
In my time I served in 'ychebka' (sort of a specialty school) unit and in 'linear' (regular active) unit. World of difference. Does it mean all 'linear' units are in bad shape? Absolutely not. Does it mean all Russian/Soviet army units are/were in great shape? Absolutely not either.
However, you still are missing a point that video makes. It is not army life that is bad (even if so it is limited to short term), it is whole future life that is most likely to be bad and they know it.

Of course people died from both sides & after watching first 2 videos u will understand how all this started, georgian soldiers were celebrating & cheering each other: Ossetia is ours! Come out, come where ever u are! And u will see what happend when one poor naive old man came out! Those georgians came to Tchivali absolutly sure that russian army will not come to help ossetians, u can see it on first two viseos, no resistance from anybody at all! And that makes Michael J. Tottens story a bull!

Ever since this thing started I begun walking Russian blogs. All of them reference the same set of pictures and movies. Unless you are going to show something completely new I doubt you or Georgians have a proof one way or the other.
However, if you are implying that Russia-Georgia war over Georgian (yes, Georgian if only de-jure) territory started when Georgian forces attacked Ts'hinvali (or Ts'hinval, if you prefer) on August 7th of 2008 then you have a point.
But only point, which serves your agenda. I am sure, to Georgian war with Russia started the moment Russia decided to leave its hooks in Abkhazia and SO when Georgia split from Soviet Union (the same with Moldova, the same with Ukraine, the same with Armenia, the same with Azerbaijan, ..., the same was with Baltic states).

The charges are absolutly related, he's an accessory to murders, tax crimes (billions of dollars, all this guys stole atleast 500 billions of dollars in Russia) & etc. I see old mentality and opinion about Russia at the West, especialy in US, why u not mentioning that? U using specially selected events, facts & words, and interpritate it like U want, using this mentality.

In regard to Khodorkovsky affair. You may be right and he may be thief and murderer and embezzler and many other things. Unfortunately, your (however justifiable) dislike of him is not enough to put him into jail. You may think justice was served in regard to Khodorkovsky even if you had to fabricate load of evidence and whole trial. In reality what you did is you stuck your head out and under an axe. Who is to say that you should not be killed for the Greater Good?
Remember Stalin?
As to our old mentality, have you changed for us to think differently?

Tell me, what americans were saying about arabs after 9/11. I have a friend in Brooklyn, few days after 9/11 he told me that angry crowd of americans beat to the death two eastern looking guys in turbans, thinking that they were arabs, afterwords it became known that those to poor souls were indians. There u go, nice fluffy americans.

I personally never heard of such case even though I have a lot of friends and relatives living in Brooklyn. But I am will to give your friend benefit of a doubt simply because no matter how much majority of Americans feel and try there are always bad apples.

No such thing here against georgians before or after their country's aggression against SO.

I am not aware of any case either but for the same token as above I doubt there is none. By the way, I heard Putin has special order for law enforcement people to make sure Georgians in Russia are not to being harassed. Admirable.

It's not me, but Ushenko must explain to the Ukranian people his actions, don't u know whats going on there now?

Cannot say I know to extent necessary to form an opinion. I think I will have much better idea in a week or so. Do you think Russia has nothing to do with it?

Posted by: leo Author Profile Page at September 6, 2008 5:23 AM

many people at the audience were holding posters "Russia & Georgia: Friends forever!"

I like it.

Posted by: leo Author Profile Page at September 6, 2008 5:31 AM

to leo: http://ru.youtube.com/watch?v=OnST14tH5FM

Posted by: neborator Author Profile Page at September 6, 2008 9:35 AM

to leo: http://ru.youtube.com/watch?v=oLoBckWl-dg

Posted by: neborator Author Profile Page at September 6, 2008 9:36 AM

to leo: http://ru.youtube.com/watch?v=m4R7YzrR4Jg

Posted by: neborator Author Profile Page at September 6, 2008 9:39 AM

I don’t mean to be ridiculous but this story is ridiculous. “The restoration of constitutional order” it didn’t accomplish nothing, it should teach politicians not to lie. The Iraq war sure didn’t help to make anything better there were more important issues such as you statement “And everybody here knows that Ossetia is a gangster's smuggler's paradise” So was Iraq. I didn’t know this about Ossetia (if this is true at all) but now I do however, nonetheless this reinforces my statement that GWB hand far more important issues such as his ghetto and gangster areas of America and far more, no matter how we look at this there were far more important issues to deal with other than Saddam which was never a threat nor a global issue but it is now a threat to the region and the world, but never before.
What in the world the Georgian president could have been thinking? How could he think that he could stop an army that was 10000 more than he, how real could the “300” be! Or did he think he was “Rambo”. Silly, if they were coming at Georgia then he should have let them and maybe no one would have died. But it would have been all more the greater reason for regional unity and global support against Russia and Russia would perhaps have no strong point as an excuse except that the world already know that their borders were under threat from NATO and the USA. The world sympathizes with Russia because of this without their attack on Georgia, now Georgia attack on SO only accumulates support for Russia against NATO and the USA no matter how USA and Georgia or Chainey spins it. USA spin does not work well anyway.
I am no military guru and certainly no politician pundit (but I do better than those who think they are), in my limited experience of warfare and political strategy I would know better. Because of the outcome of this situation I am unimpressed by this story and it only further convinces me that the Russians is doing this for their security and that Georgia is a little guy with big mouth and should have worked in a more friendly ways with its neighbors. As far as Russia creating sectarian conditions within borders the USA and EU and China and all major powers do the same, it has always been this way and as long as there are threats and interest dormant in major powers this will be a fact in our world ( am not saying this ir the right thing to do, however it depends). Please tell the story from a non bias position next time and I am sure you would achieve more sympathy.

Posted by: consultbahamas Author Profile Page at September 6, 2008 9:46 AM

to leo: U talking about "Putin's trap" as if it's a proven fact, but forgetting that before russian tanks entered SO, Putin have talked to Bush, who could of prevent all violence that followed, but he didn't...Why? Not important? Testing Russia? Can u explain it? Is it proven fact that he had problems with visa? So, following your logic it's Putin ordered georgian soldiers to as much civilians as they can or he's an ordinary fortune teller? Was it also Putin in 1921 and 1991? So u doubt that trained by CIA georgian intelegence are capable for provocations? Why didn't u told me before that this guys from CIA are practically a fluffy saints? Why u still have them? I already told u that i've been in Azerbaidjan and i know the story, yes russian militaries were selling weapons & mercenares, by not by order from Moscow, it was plain business for them, they were not receiving salary, they did the same shit they did in Afganistan and americans all over the world. Moldova, i had friend their, his from Dubosary, his was on moldavian side of conflict, so i know the story, it was moldovian nationalists who started that, they wanted to join Romania, i hope u know history and who was the greatest helper of Hitler at eastern front.
I don't understand your points about Ukraine & Baltic States, but they always had nationalists, who always hated us, Crimea for example wanted to be independent, they didn't expect to become ukranians. Do u know that ukrainian goverment are using crimerian tatars against russian majority there? U using popular anti-russian clishes which were invented specially for people who has no idea what was really going on their, your and other millions opinion are very important for them to do what they doing. We are monkeys & Russia not a circus to change for everybody and to please all, we have changed for ourselves, u should know this game, my move, your move, my move and so on, we did a few moves, u haven't done even one. According to your logic Russia is always behind everything, i personally prefer woman butt.

Posted by: neborator Author Profile Page at September 6, 2008 10:21 AM

my mistake, we not are monkeys, i just looked at the mirror

Posted by: neborator Author Profile Page at September 6, 2008 10:24 AM

sorry for mistakes, i'm really in a hurry, going to a party

Posted by: neborator Author Profile Page at September 6, 2008 10:26 AM

Mr. Totten-
I am writing a mostly human-interest article for my school newspaper about the Georgia-Russia War and interviewing an aquaintance who is from Georgia and whom still has family there. May I have your permission to quote your article in my article for my school's newspaper? Please email me at angelchick9934@aol.com as soon as possible.
Thank you for your time.
Sincerely,
Claire

Posted by: clairew Author Profile Page at September 7, 2008 6:06 PM

See people, that how u do it, call it G-R war, don't mention:
1. G started agression against SO
2. A lot of brutally killed SO civilians
3. Killings of peacekeepers
4. Destroyed SO capital and villages
5. Use of illegal weapons
6. Use of excesive force
7. Russian warnings to stop georgian invasion
8. Civil & human rights of south ossetians & abhazians
9. SO & Abhazia were independent de-facto since the fall of SU
10. ethnical cleansings of 1921 & 1991
Call Russia the evil empire & Putin reincarnation of Hitler, cry RUSSIANS ARE COMING & jump out of the window. This way u will win public opinion and doctors will have another classical case of radical psycho-rusophobia... and it's a nice way to prepare yourselves for Halloween.

Posted by: neborator Author Profile Page at September 8, 2008 9:19 AM

Michael, why wasn't the Roki Tunnel destroyed, which seemingly would have prevented the Russian advance into South Ossetia? That seems to have been a fatal flaw in the Georgians' actions against the Russians.

Also, with American and Israeli military advisers, that seems to have been basic. Indeed, Russia might not have prevailed if the tunnel had been sealed, thereby preventing the principal Russian advance.

I welcome your thoughts. Thank you.

Posted by: hikercoast Author Profile Page at September 10, 2008 11:47 PM

georgian's military were controlling the road to the Roki Tunnel, shooting everything on it and mostly it were civilian's cars with refuges trying to flee to north ossetia, a lot of those burnt cars are still there. It was a target practice for the nice fluffy georgian army, but originally they planned to let the civilians escape through the tunnel and then seal it, clear field indeed!

Posted by: neborator Author Profile Page at September 11, 2008 2:22 AM

P.S. U should listen to the people who survived this hell & maybe, just maybe u will start to understand something...

Posted by: neborator Author Profile Page at September 11, 2008 2:26 AM

Michael,

Hello, your piece was interesting, and I know that it takes some courage to do political reporting in conflict areas...

The 120 mm shelling from Ossetia suggests a provocation in a long series of skirmishes between the sides, and the armored columns in the Roki tunnel suggest a strategic reason for Georgia's entrance into Tskhinvali.

This article gave me the best insight on how the conflict started:

"U.S. knew Georgia trouble was coming, but couldn't stop it"
http://www.mcclatchydc.com/227/story/47631.html

WASHINGTON — Bush administration officials, worried by what they saw as a series of provocative Russian actions, repeatedly warned Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili to avoid giving the Kremlin an excuse to intervene in his country militarily, U.S. officials said Monday.

But in the end, the warnings failed to stop the Georgian president — a Bush favorite — from launching an attack last week that on Monday seemed likely to end not only in his country’s military humiliation but complete occupation by Russian forces.

"The Russians have clearly overreacted but President Saakashvili . . . for some reason seems to think he has a hall pass from this administration," said former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage.

U.S. officials had been warning of Russian actions designed to provoke Georgia for months.

Earlier this year, he said, Russia strengthened official ties with separatist leaders in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, shot down an unmanned Georgian surveillance drone, sent heavy combat troops with artillery as peacekeepers to Abkhazia and dispatched military personnel to repair a rail line without Georgia's permission.

A "parade" of U.S. officials, including Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, visited Tbilisi to urge Saakashvili to avoid giving the Kremlin to act, a State Department officials said.

At the same time, U.S. officials said that they believed they had an understanding with Russia that any response to Georgian military action would be limited to South Ossetia.

"We knew they were going to go crack heads. We told them again and again not to do this," the State Department official said. "We thought we had an understanding with the Russians that any response would be South Ossetia-focused. Clearly it's not."

[continued at the article's website]

Posted by: rako Author Profile Page at September 13, 2008 1:43 AM

US officals are simply covering their asses!!!
Why didn't they said something about that earlier, before the georgian's aggression, and what about president Bush? I guess not understanding about what's going on is a typical reaction for him at any time, 9/11 or 8/8. So why at the senate's hearings they didn't presented any evidences of their all knowing? U ready to beleive anything they say? As with 1989 secret database of afganian modjaheds recruited by CIA with the code name "Al-Qaida"? It's hilarious, US spending billions playing hide & seek with itself, fighting with imaginary himeras and democrates are promising to find who? CIA agent Usama Ben Laden? Why not simply ask the guys from West Virginia? It's obvious that Bush was never running this country, then who are? How do u call this shadow group? Aren't u tired being fooled over and over again? I guess now american dream has sucessfully transformed into american sleep. Sweet Dreams USA.
http://ru.youtube.com/watch?v=whZXi2XRPN0

Posted by: neborator Author Profile Page at September 13, 2008 7:56 AM

it is very important to hear from people inside georgia. I saw and read too many comments on georgia and georgians on youtube videos from people living in australia,us,canada,serbia and many others who if usked do you know georgia would answer-yes I know Moscow.I mean you'we got to live in the region to comment on it. the fact is that russian borders coming deep into georgia(we were safer when it was over the caucasus mountains).and the fact is russia has officialy announced georgia as its sphere of influence and will never live georgia in peace.the fact is georgians,abkhaz and ossetians had lived in peace for centuries before the collapse of USSR.the fact is too many russians are interested in this conflict-even russian carpenters in london tell me abkhazia should be independent.why? does anyone have an answer?

great article and unforgettable effort of you all.

Posted by: bacho ramishvili Author Profile Page at September 14, 2008 1:56 AM

How about bloody summer of 1920? 30 000 killed ossetians! 1991 - 10 000 killed ossetians! Does that ring a bell? It seems that USSR was the only barrier stoping Georgia from new atrocities in SO. So it's not a fact & there were no those centuries of peace u are talking about, it's a made-up fairy tale. Abkhazia is a very beautiful place, it's a pearl of the Black Sea region, it should be without war & any tensions, people must enjoy it's beauty & not to fight for it. Give it 20 years of peace and prosperity, and georgians will come back there peacefully, to live & enjoy it's wonders. Why it's absolutly necessary has got to be now & by force? Let the wounds heal! If u really love somebody & she needs time, what would u do? It's not the end of the world, there is no need for somebody to die over somebody else principals or spoiled desires, time was always the best doctor in such affairs!

Posted by: neborator Author Profile Page at September 14, 2008 3:09 AM

A questions to Michael:

Why president Saakashvili was using the flag of EU? Previously he was more using US flag or both! Was he told not to use US flag? Why not & why EU flag? Don't u thing that "somebody" don't like very much new good relationships between Russia & EU? Let's be honest, EU had no interest for Georgia, it's more interesting for US, for 2 main reasons, military perspectives in the region, killing atleast two birds by one stone, Russia & Iran & of course pipeline with azerbaidjanian oil. Was it really possible for so controlable by US figure such as Saakashvili to became so out of control in a split days? Why one month before the conflict they had joined military maneuvers of US & Georgia special forces with anti-militia scenario?

Posted by: neborator Author Profile Page at September 14, 2008 3:34 AM

Dear neborator,

can you please mention the historical source of the 30 000 south ossetians killed by georgians in 1920 and 10000 in 1991-92(as I know-not only it is mentioned in wikipedia there were 3000 civilian casualties half of which were georgians).and prompt me to the video or photo where Saakashvili is using EU or US flag instead of georgian. I am really interested to know the truth myself. the authors of the articles mentioned there were preparations of russian forcies before the war and you are questioning the US-Georgian training.

Posted by: bacho ramishvili Author Profile Page at September 14, 2008 6:59 AM

Few more questions to Michael:

Can u tell us about the involvement of MPRI in Georgian conflict?
Is military instructor Michael Lee White working for MPRI?
Why didn't u meantion all this in story?

Posted by: neborator Author Profile Page at September 14, 2008 11:13 AM

Dear Bacho Ramishvili

President Saakashvili was using EU flag together with national flag of Georgia at the begining of the conlict in all his TV appearances. By the way, EU council wasn't very pleased with that. The question is why didn't he used american flag too? At his first TV appearance on CNN he was asking american military help with two flags behind him! So what was the average american thinking seeing this? Country-member of EU being attacked by Russia? Good planning! Nice american touch!
When 18 hours after the begining of the georgian invasion to SO, russian militaries entered there, many people in Moscow were thinking about the same thing, it's a trap, that's why they didn't destroyed Roki Tunnel...and as soon as they entered, CNN, BBC, FOX & etc started broadcasting horrible news for the western world: Russia invaded Georgia!
Before that nothing was meantioned about what was going on in SO for almost 18 hours! Is it possible for CNN & others, especially having there reporters all the time? They were deaf & blind all this time? Like all american security agencies & militaties on 9/11? During a month before 9/11 there were 67 out of course & out of radar accidents with civilian planes in US airspace & all 67 times there were american jet-fighters in the air to intercept them, but on 9/11 there were no jet-fighters to intercept FOUR planes!!! And what hited Pentagon? Last night we had a terrible accident in Russia with Boing 737-500. Terrible explosion!!! 94 people dead. Plane's parts everywhere at the radious of 10 km. There were plane's parts around Pentagon and how 31 meters wide plane could left 5 meters hole in the wall? In Michael Lee White's passport where are a lot of stamps and visas from the latest hot zones. They say his an ex-military and ex-CIA, working now as a teacher. What teacher was doing in all this hot zones? It's known that in all this hot zones there were instructors from MPRI!!! So yeah, i beleive that he's a teacher, the one who's teaching how to kill people and blow things up. And how convinient for US his story that at the time of conflict he was not in China, but in USA. I bet he will say the same about his whereabouts at the times when he's been in Bosnia, Kosovo, Uzbekistan & etc. This guy is MPRI instructor, teacher in China is his cover, good old CIA school. I think China should look closer at this guy...
http://ru.youtube.com/watch?v=Kid379OjuC0

Posted by: neborator Author Profile Page at September 14, 2008 12:21 PM

Dear Bacho Ramishvili

In most sources u'll find a short message that Georgia suppressed south ossetians uprising in 1920, but i've seen a few documentaries about summer of 1920, revolution & the white movement. It's was an old documentary of that period, and it was said that 30 000 ossetians were killed in a few weeks of summer 1920 & another 60 000 had to fled, most of this people were peasants & sheppards, i don't understand this cruelty, but i guess it was everywhere like this then, hell on earth sort of speak. I was interested in the history of that period, because my grandfather was fighting against bolshevics in Dobrovolcheskaya Army, a part of white movement at the north & north-east of Russia, most of them end up in China, where my mother was born, in Manchguria. He hated commisars & i never liked them ever. But now we are back, all those who's origins, past & relatives were intimidated by commis and we don't like when West is calling us by our enemy's name, we are Russia, not USSR. Russia is big & we don't need more land or become an empire, why would we? Almost a century of atrocities to my kind left us with only 150 million people, in fact we need immigrants like US a few centuries ago. Our goal is to become strong, wealthy, friendly to our neighbours state & of course russians want to save our orthodox traditions & culture, it saddens our hearts when we see, how Salem's Lot descendants are hurting our orthodoxs brothers & sisters, trying to to sow the seeds of evil amongst us, but there is an old russian saying: what u sown is what u'll harvest.

Posted by: neborator Author Profile Page at September 14, 2008 2:29 PM

P.S. Ivan the Terrible killed 60 000 citizens of Lower Novgorog in two weeks, a few months later 2000 moscovites, their wifes were drowned in Moscow River & it's only a small part of his deeds, Lenin ordered to kill 450 000 of captured kozaks, millions died of hunger in Russia & Ukraine, turks killed 200 000 armenians, the same did japanese to chinese, americans to japanese, germans to russians, stalin to russians and many others, serbs to bosnians, croatians to serbs, americans to iraqies, history is full of this horrible dates & numbers. Who will be next? When will this stop?

Posted by: neborator Author Profile Page at September 14, 2008 2:50 PM

Trotsky was the founder of the Red Army & father of Red Terror idea. He was russian jew & close associate of Lenin, became an enemy of Stalin and fled to Mexico. Became enemy#1 of SU. Had many followers in Latine America & USA, who called him genious, had many visitors from all over including USA, was consulting, writing books & political theories, was one of the main political theoretician of his time. He hated Russia, not what he helped to create, but what he helped to destroy. He's latest ideas were political & economical isolation of Russia, first dividing Russia into a lot of small states, then dividing this states between major countries, so that Russia seize to exist once and for all... Sounds familiar?

P.S. He was deviliously smart & merciless, he was invincible iron warrior of revolution, I think he was the only one Stalin was really afraid of (he was panicly afraid of him), so of course he had him killed years later.

Posted by: neborator Author Profile Page at September 15, 2008 1:58 AM

Use of terror & fear as tools of absolute power to rule the people!

That's what we see in USA for the last 8 years.

How come ultra-communist's ideal's of Lev Trotsky became national policy of USA? Can u answer that Michael?

Posted by: neborator Author Profile Page at September 15, 2008 2:08 AM

to neborator

You have answered to all my imaginary questions except the ones that I gave to you-to give me the source of the documents on 30000 SOs killed in 1920 and 10000 killed in 1992. here I give you mine - Wikiperia enciclopedia:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/South_Ossetia
''Under Mongol rule, they were pushed out of their medieval homeland south of the Don River in present-day Russia and part migrated towards and over the Caucasus mountains, to Georgia36 where they formed three distinct territorial entities. Digor in the west came under the influence of the neighboring Kabard people, who introduced Islam. Tualläg in the south became what is now South Ossetia, part of the historical Georgian principality of Samachablo37 where Ossetians found refuge from Mongol invaders''...

...''The area saw a series of Ossetian rebellions during which claims for independence were made. The Georgian government accused Ossetians of cooperating with Bolsheviks. According to Ossetian sources about 5,000 Ossetians were killed and more than 13,000 subsequently died from hunger and epidemics.38''...
''The Georgian Supreme Council adopted a law barring regional parties in summer 1990. This was interpreted by Ossetians as a move against Ademon Nykhas and led to Ossetians proclaiming South Ossetia a Soviet Democratic Republic,41 fully sovereign within the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). Ossetians boycotted subsequent Georgian parliamentary elections and held their own contest in December. The Georgian government headed by Zviad Gamsakhurdia declared this election illegitimate and abolished South Ossetia's autonomous status altogether on 11 December 1990.38
Violent conflict broke out towards the end of 1991 during which many South Ossetian villages were attacked and burned down as were Georgian houses and schools in Tskhinvali, the capital of South Ossetia. As a result, approximately 1,000 died and about 100,000 ethnic Ossetians fled the territory and Georgia proper, most across the border into North Ossetia. A further 23,000 ethnic Georgians fled South Ossetia and settled in other parts of Georgia.42''..
''he tensions in the region began to rise amid the rising nationalism among both Georgians and Ossetians in 1989. Before this, the two communities of the South Ossetian Autonomous Oblast of Georgian SSR had been living in peace with each other except for the 1918-1920 events. Both ethnicities have had a high level of interaction and high rates of intermarriages..''

hence:
1.ossetians came to georgia to find refuge.
2.they wanted to go independent from georgian menshevik government and georgia suppressed the rebellion(as would every country do including russia).
3.30000 is not correct.
4.not 10000 but 1000 died in 1991-92 conflict including georgians,
5.lived together in peace for centuries until russian bolsheviks in 1920 and USSR KGB in 1989-90 did not put a seed of separatism in there.
As for the media on the conflict-I live in the UK and on 8 of august I became aware of war from the morning newspaper here.almost all of them had georgian missiles launching on the front page.

Graphomania is a disease!

Posted by: bacho ramishvili Author Profile Page at September 15, 2008 5:03 AM

to bacho ramishvili
I saw wikipedia info about it, it's almost repeating official georgian sources with one main differeance, at the georgian government site u won't find any information about georgian repressions against ossetians, especially the number of killed ossetians. U won't find it at genocyde page of wikipedia too. Wikipedia is not an absolute sourse of information. I guess some facts are not facts at all for wikipedia, for example can u find in wikipedia how many armenians were killed by turks? Or how many serb's refuges were killed by croatian nationalists? I'm not suprised that people at the West have different opinion abouts many facts of history, u seach info in wikipedia, and we use many sources, old documentaries, historical books, different internet referencies. if u really want to know more about ossetians then check this out:
http://ossetians.com/eng/

1. alans came to Caucasus for refuge in 13th century, not to Georgia speciffically.
2. it's was even more simplier, British oil company was interested in delivering oil by railroad from azerbaidjan to the seaports of Georgia, suppled by british, georgian army advanced to South Ossetia to suppress the local population who were against of this plans. I'm sure that LOCAL bolsheviks were involved. But it was british general who said: I don't care if local natives will kill each other completely...
3. 30000 in two weeks is correct
4. i'll not disagree with u about that, i heard figure 10 000 from ossetians, abhazians & some of my friends who've been there.
5. Lived together in peace as a part of Russian Empire also. And don't forget that menshevics & bolchevics were locals! Not russians!!! In fact in most of regional cases it was international, mostly based on locals! Can u proof KGB seed? I forgot, u still think that KGB is behind all, well u should be especially carefull with Belarusia, they still has it.
I was watching CNN, BBC & etc, u should know that it's not newpapers, but TV stations. And what was the title? Georgia using new lullaby for South Ossetia?

Wikipediomania - is an awfull word, but i thought that u deserve to know that...

Posted by: neborator Author Profile Page at September 15, 2008 10:53 AM

Dear neborator,(is that a name?)
still you do not give me any historical source of your arguments(though you mention some old books and documents..fair anough)
1.I did not say that all the alans came speciffically in to georgia. but the south caucasus part which some of the tribes settled called samachablo was the georgian teritory.
2.you say ossetians were against the brithish oil in 1920 and that is why georgians suppressed them. can you tell me any logical reason why the ossetians were against the british oil(environmental issue?).
3.can you give me any historical source,documentation.I want to read(last call)
4.?..
5.living together in peace from 13 century to 1801(when georgia was annexed by russians)is a good example of close and friendly relations.not to mention during the russian occupation for 117 years.

as for the international media(we already agreed that the newspapers did a good job), you have not seen it does not mean they did not show it. you can watch the video report of BBC on the 6 august events on http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/7542230.stm (showing the population had been evacuated)
than 8 august as russian tanks entered georgian territory
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/7549594.stm

Posted by: bacho ramishvili Author Profile Page at September 15, 2008 1:01 PM

you can find the genocide of armenians by turks in wikipedia including the figures.

Posted by: bacho ramishvili Author Profile Page at September 15, 2008 1:05 PM

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Armenian_genocide

Posted by: bacho ramishvili Author Profile Page at September 15, 2008 1:06 PM

P.S. And by the way, if u think u're such an expert on bolsheviks, please do tell me the names of bolsheviks who were really russians. (especially names of those bolshevick bastards who captured Georgia in 1921. But only russians, please)

Posted by: neborator Author Profile Page at September 15, 2008 1:08 PM

No, it's my login, it's like Skywalker
I've have seen this page before, but i haven't seen there any real numbers of genicide against armenians.
1.Yeah, i know, they still call Tchinval region as Samachablo in Tbilisi
2.i've seen this documentary more than 10 years ago, i don't remember exactly, but it was some how connected to the railroad & british had problems with oil delivery (as usual, problems are always some how connected with money)
3. It was in this documentary. I did't find it online, but i'm sure it's there, some place, internet is too big, to be sure, sometimes i can't find something through googles & etc,but few days later i can find it in emule, some blog or forgotten by time online shop with rare videos & books.
4. I play russian billiards & pool for more than 15 years and have a lot of friends from Caucasus, also when i was a child and teenager, i travelled a lot with my father's theather, we had people of many nationalities there and i've seen all former SU republics with my own eyes and had friends there. I also had 2 georgian friends here in Moscow when i was a teenager, every summer they were spending in Georgia, bringing back chaha, other stuff & stories about how they spent summer there. Of course we talked a lot, about diffenrences of orthodox beginings, about laws of blood, traditions of Caucasus (with everybody i know from Caucasus), u know, u can discuss a lot of things in a good company, sitting around the table with good food & drinks. We have a lot of people from Caucasus in Moscow. I see them every week in my usual nightclubs & bars, as americans & british by the way. Last week i met a guy named Perry from London, his father owns a nightclub in London "StringFellows", i've been there, last time when i've been in London.
5. It was not an occupation, we still have in Moscow the gift from Irakliy the Second - king of Kahetia, who was asking Russia to save his son Leon from the hands of Persian shah Ali Murad who was going to take Kahetia & Kartly by force. So Irakliy the Second signed protection papers with Queen of Russia Ekaterina the Second. It was in 1783, Georgia had enemies, and needed protection, that's why Goergia had joined Russia, but it was later in 1800. In fact it was Russia who fought back Adjaria from Ottomans & Georgia from Persians who butchered citizens of Tifliz. The treaty was signed by the last king of Georgia Georgiy the Twelve & son of queen Ekaterina russian tzar Pavel the First and then his son Aleksander the First in 1801. And by the way he maybe saved orthodox faith in Georgia witch was surrounded by unfriendly muslim neighbours. It was also the reason why Mingrelia also joined Russia in 1803, then Imiretia & Guria in 1804. It was all done by personal messanger of russian tzar prince Chichianov, who was georgian by the way and was killed fighting against muslim neighbours of Georgia. After 2 wars with 2 magometanian kingdoms, Abhazia also joined Russia in 1810. I hope u don't forgot hero of Russia of 1812, prince Bagration (Bargationi) , he was russian officer, they were many others like him in our history and we always honored them. Who knows, maybe if not Russia, there could be no more Georgia & georgian could of been muslims instead of orthodox. It's our history and words of Saakashvili or anybody else can't change it.
And what was between between 6 august & russian tanks? It's this period of time i was talking about.

Posted by: neborator Author Profile Page at September 15, 2008 3:14 PM

P.S. And of course it's much more easier for me to find information in russian then to find it's copy in english. I don't know, maybe there is no such information in english online, i hope u understand that history of Caucasus is more our history than english speaking audience

Posted by: neborator Author Profile Page at September 15, 2008 3:19 PM

But if read in russian that's an interesting piece for u (all about russian empire's advancement to Caucasus):

http://militera.lib.ru/research/gammer_m/index.html

Posted by: neborator Author Profile Page at September 15, 2008 3:32 PM

from your source given above.
Это стало неизбежным, поскольку защитить Картли и Кахетию, а также дорогу из Владикавказа в Тифлис (в 1799 г. ее реконструировали) без дальнейшего покорения народов и захвата территорий было невозможно. Так начался период войн и столкновений, длившийся шесть с половиной десятилетий, в [19] результате которого Кавказ оказался в полном подчинении России.

Кроме того, Павел пошел на включение Картли и Кахетии в состав империи без учета роли и места царствовавшей династии, как это первоначально предлагалось. Александр, вопреки подсказкам своих советников и пожеланиям грузинской стороны, пошел по стопам отца{24}. Это еще более усилило недовольство и возмущение грузинского дворянства.
Мало того, очень скоро из-за скверного исполнения своих должностных обязанностей со стороны русской администрации и военных, которые находились под началом командующего войсками на Кавказе Кнорринга и ненавистного для всех бывшего посла в Тифлисе Петра Ивановича Коваленского, отношение к русским в Картли и Кахетии окончательно испортилось{25}.
В результате положение России в Грузии на протяжении десятилетий было неустойчивым. Уже в 1832 г. состоялся антироссийский заговор{26}. В 1839–1840 гг. грузины, одинаково христиане и мусульмане, с нетерпением ожидали прихода Ибрагима-паши (сына египетского правителя Мухаммеда Али) как своего освободителя{27}, а в 1841 г. разразилось восстание в Гурии{

«За три с половиной года своего управления, — писал Семен Эсадзе, — Цицианов раздвинул границы российских владений от Черного моря до Каспийского»

all above mentioned states the different from your statement that georgia willingly became the part of the russian empire. Cicianov(cicianashvili)раздвинул границы российских владений от Черного моря до Каспийского».
King of imeretia was imprisoned in 1810 and imeretia became the part of the empire.other kings(bagrationi) were deported to petersburg.
Georgia became christian in 337 AD. since then persians, arabs, tatars, turks,bactrians,tamerlane,mongols,turk-selchuks and many more muslim and people of other religions have invaded georgia but we maintained our orthodox faith up to the russian occupation in 1801-1810. russian orthodox church abolished georgian patriarchate.
as for georgian occupation in 1921-pilipe maxaradze, ordjonikidze and iosif besarionovich stalin who masterminded the georgian invasion with the help of 11th red army headed by Анатолий Ильич Гекке is the begining of the bloody communism era in georgia the result of which georgia is tasting now(with some of our best poets and writers shot in 1937).but the thing is that you have got to be georgian to feel all this.after all not the georgian red army invaded russia and russia never was a georgian gubernia.and as a reasonable person I can not say that communism was a progress for georgian cultural,political or social life(including the principles of democracy so cherished in EU who georgia wants to belong one day but some ''supernatural forces'' always stir trouble in there).

Posted by: bacho ramishvili Author Profile Page at September 16, 2008 12:26 PM

I think this supernatural forces are georgians themselves, it's always easier to blame somebody else or to have an image of the enemy to scare people by it, the current example is US, with their CIA grown, MPRI trained terrorists. Things u mentioned were people's factor, but Cicianov was georgian & his was acting in the interests of Russia, but was not using force against Georgia. Nobody's saying that Russian Empire was perfect. We are not historians to now exactly how it was & why it was, but it's a fact, that not russians were butchering georgians, but their muslim neighbours. It's also fact of life that when Georgia was part of Russian Empire, some russian nobles who were visiting Tifliz & wrote about it's beauty and wealth, comparing it with Paris.
So u see, georgians planned communism for Georgia, for russians it were not even russians, but both our nation were inslaved by bolsveviks. As i remember Georgia was the most prosperous republic in the USSR & some georgians were the richest people in the USSR, georgian criminal society is still one of the most richest & powerfull in Russia.
Communism was bad for everybody, almost without exceptions, but i don't think that it's that what bothers Georgia now, partly it's an old mentality, when SU was the main financial support for Georgia and the main market consumer of it's national production chain, but mostly it's state nationalism (it's like awakening of national self-awareness in a wrong way) which is so natural for the small post colonial countries mixed with economical colapse. We also had something like this, but being bigger country we went through it much faster. Anyway it's not my job to tell Georgia what to do, but for a friendly advise i would recommend Georgia first to think about EU & gain more economical growth & only after think about NATO. People need to feed their children & have a right for decent life they didn't had for so long. Guns will not feed them or make life better, national idea must be for people, not on their expense. I don't think that american model is good for Georgia, it's more like Greece, Cyprus,France, Italy, Spain or Portugal.

Posted by: neborator Author Profile Page at September 16, 2008 2:53 PM

Michael: Having lived in Georgia for the past two years, I appreciated your writing and insight. Considering the Nov. 7 NYTimes articles, though, what are your thoughts? You interviewed soldiers wounded in Avnevi, and their stories directly dispute the Times' interviews with Avenevi residents.

Additionally, according to Eurasianet.org, shelling in Tskhinvali began Aug. 1-2. I understand why Worms leaves this out of his explanation to you. Any thoughts on how this plays into his narrative?

An update/ your thoughts would be very interesting to hear. Thanks again for your writing.

Posted by: megrelo Author Profile Page at November 6, 2008 9:14 PM

Anyway, is it just me, or does this situation remind anyone else of the Six-Day War, in which the tiny nation was accused of starting a war against an enormous military complex, such accusations ignoring the armies amassing to destroy it as the war began? In both cases, there's a mess coming out of it, with territories under the de facto control of the winner, unrecognized by the rest of the world. In this case, however, it wasn't the underdog who came out on top.

Posted by: viperson Author Profile Page at December 2, 2008 11:45 PM

what? what is with that stupid post.. you ? Usa who stole money from the world with your stupid central bank or mondial bank..with your new world order? you killed thousands of people in avganistan and you criticise russia for what? for the fact russia does not make loans from your banks? or for the fact that russia is not for sale? i`m not from usa or from russia but people are not stupid.. go kill yourselfs usa.. russia is better than you will ever be.. at least russia is not runned by puppets like usa and that stupid obama.. david rockefeller showes a hand in obama`s ass and he makes him speak .. shut the fuck up..

Posted by: Catalin Stefan Author Profile Page at December 8, 2010 10:37 AM

It is now March 27, 2011.

Having read Michael's article and all the comments posted on this blog, I see what appear to be some facts. First, Russia had a very large force positioned on the border of Georgia (Southern Ossetia).

Second, that the population of Tskhinvali had been transported to North Ossetia before Georgian forces launched an attack on Tskhinvali on August 7th.

Third, that there was shelling exchanged between South Ossetians and Georgians for at least two days before Georgian forces went into the city.

Fourth, the Russians had an overwhelming advantage in this short lived war. Which begs the question as to why the Georgians thought they were any match... certainly, Georgians knew the Russian army was amassed on the border.

Fifth, the Russians did not stop at Takhinvali, but advanced far into Georgia... and then did not leave.

Sixth, that Russia had provoked the anger of Georgians prior to these events, including giving the majority of Ossetians in the area Russian passports.

Seventh, Russia had built and maintained the tunnel entering into Georgia. Not unlike the roads Russia had built entering into Afghanistan prior to its invasion of Afghanistan: Roads built for heavy duty military vehicles.

Acts do speak louder than words. And the fact is that the Russian army did more than protect South Ossetians... who had already been transported to Northern Ossetia. No doubt there were Ossetians that did not leave the city, but they were given that opportunity to leave with the rest. The act of transporting the population to Northern Ossetia reveals that a major conflict was in the planning by someone. Removing the population could not have been simply the result of the shelling that had taken place for two or three days.

All of the comments preceding mine here provide a wealth of information to the reader and I recommend you read all. It is only in reading all and seeking the facts that we will know the we can move forward in peace. Human rights are an integral part of democracy and any government that does not protect human rights is wrong. A government is truly known by laws respecting human rights. A government that does not uphold its laws and protect human rights has only hijacked the will of its people, the Sovereigns.

Posted by: ofthehighest Author Profile Page at March 26, 2011 6:37 PM
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