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  • Morning Bell: The Russian Threat to Peace

    “As I write, Russia is waging war on my country,” Georgia President Mikheil Saakashvili begins his Wall Street Journal op-ed. He continues:

    On Friday, hundreds of Russian tanks crossed into Georgian territory, and Russian air force jets bombed Georgian airports, bases, ports and public markets. Many are dead, many more wounded. This invasion, which echoes Afghanistan in 1979 and the Prague Spring of 1968, threatens to undermine the stability of the international security system. …

    No country of the former Soviet Union has made more progress toward consolidating democracy, eradicating corruption and building an independent foreign policy than Georgia. This is precisely what Russia seeks to crush.

    The facts on the ground since Friday support Saakashvili’s claim. Despite the withdrawal of Georgian troops from the disputed South Ossetia territory and Georgia’s offer for a cease fire, Russian tanks are closing in on the central Georgian city of Gori, Russia has bombed Georgia’s capitol Tblisi, and Russian paratroopers in the disputed Abkhazia region have crossed over into undisputed Georgian territory. When asked during an emergency UN Security Council meeting if Russia’s objective was “regime change in Georgia,” Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin replied: “Sometimes there are occasions when, and we know from history, there are different leaders who come to power either democratically or semi-democratically … and they become an obstacle.”

    This statement is only remarkable in its frankness. Russia has supported separatists in Abkhazia and South Ossetia for years, even appointing Russian security officers to arm and administer the groups. Moscow even granted the majority of Abkhazs and South Ossetians Russian citizenship, effectively enacting a creeping annexation of these territories. This is a slippery slope designed to redraw the borders of the former Soviet empire. And the effort is not confined to Georgia. Last spring Prime Minister Vladimir Putin spoke about Russia “dismembering” Ukraine, another NATO candidate, and detaching the Crimea, a peninsula that was transferred from Russia to Ukraine when both were integral parts of the Soviet Union.

    Georgia has repeatedly sent soldiers to both Iraq and Afghanistan, and the 2,000 troops that were patrolling the Iraqi border with Iran are now being sent back to Georgia with U.S. help. But the United States must do more. America and its allies need to demand that Russia withdraw all its troops from the territory of Georgia and recognize its territorial integrity. Heritage senior research fellow Ariel Cohen suggests talks ought to start in a neutral forum, such as the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to finally settle the South Ossetian and Abkhazian problems. This can be done by granting these territories full autonomy within the Georgian state, as Tbilisi has repeatedly suggested.

    Beyond this, the United States, its allies and other countries need to send a strong signal to Moscow that redrawing the borders of the former Soviet Union is a danger to world peace; it cannot be done without violation of international law; and it is likely to result in death and destruction — a price that neither the Russian people nor others should pay.

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    Posted in Ongoing Priorities [slideshow_deploy]

    15 Responses to Morning Bell: The Russian Threat to Peace

    1. Darvin Dowdy, Houst says:

      Too many unanswered questions about this Georgia situation. They've had years, how could they be so unprepared? How could we allow them to be so unprepared? Looks like our CIA has really dropped the ball again. DD

    2. Kevin O. Fenning, Ph says:

      Russians are war-mongering barbarians…Will they ever learn their lesson?

    3. Kevin O. Fenning says:

      Must we blame CIA for everthing?

    4. Ric Neumann, Ashburn says:

      Excuse me, but Georgia invaded South Osetia. How dumb is that?

    5. Robert Francis, Kans says:

      Though the morning bell was well written, I believe that it lacked research. If you dig deeper into the reason for the Russian invasion you will notice that the invasion is due to oil and natural gas. Georgia has gone from purchasing almost all of its natural gas and oil from Russia to approximately 20% now. Also, Georgia has found deposits in their own country and are harvesting them on their own. I personally believe that Russia is looking to corner the natural gas and oil industry. Since the US refuses to develop our own huge deposits we will eventually be at the mercy of Russia. This is a haunting thought to me. We must react to this invasion swiftly and decidedly. If we do not an emerging vital democracy will fail and Russia will grow in stature and power.

    6. george dubendris,rum says:

      Georgia initiated hostile activities.

      We have our Monroe Doc. we should respect Russia's and stay out of it.

    7. michael montgomery,n says:

      sorry, fellas, we are causing this situation by forcing this nato crap on every country that borders russia. russia historically has been paranoid about thier borders, this goes back to the middle ages. one of the provsions of estabishling the sattelite countrys after ww2, was to create a buffer zone with the west, so in the event of an attack, the confrontation would be on foreign soil. its time to back off,we have pushed russia in the arms of our adversaries. apparently to the clinton and bush administrations, 45 years of cold war wasn't enough. let these people be! we have liberals and marxists running roughshod over america. our true enemy is right in front of our faces. maybe some pax americana is long over due!

    8. mark , Houston says:

      If Georgia is looking to the west for help forget it , the liberals in this country took our backbone and flushed it years ago .

    9. Pingback: Blogs of War: Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili Signs Cease-Fire

    10. Ed Smithe, VA says:

      First off, what the President of Georgia fails to mention in his column is that it was his country that decided to change the flimsy status quo by marching into SO. That was what gave the Russians the casus belli that they desired to pound Georgia.

      Second, I find it curious that no one has thought through the insane idea of allowing countries like Georgia to join NATO given everything that has happened in the last 5 days. Had Georgia been a member of NATO, as institutions like the Heritage Foundation had counseled, then the discussion today might very well have been whether the US should sacrafice what is left of NATO (Article V) or turn a regional war into World War III. When one considers the thugs in charge of Tblisi, that is not the type of decision my nation should have to make on their behalf.

      I suppose I can understand the Heritage Foundation's position on this issue, after all in 1999 they fought against US intervention in the Balkans. Or…wait…given their recent position on Kosovo's independence I guess they must have changed their minds on the issue of soverignty. Does that qualify as a flip flop?


      Make no doubt about it, the United States and NATO must protect Georgia!

    12. Justin Kennedy, MI says:

      Georgia had every right as a sovereign nation to bring the separatist sectors of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, which lie within their borders, under their dominion. The Georgian government’s action towards these sectors are no different than any other government suppressing an insurrection. Furthermore, if Russia’s only intentions where to protect the integrity of these rebel states, then they wouldn’t be on the offensive but defending them. Clearly, this is yet another sign of growing Russian aggression which we have seen repeatedly over the last two years at the direction of Putin. If the West fails to protect the sovereignty of Georgia, other former Iron Curtain nations can expect the same treatment. Not only do Russian actions threaten the sovereignty of numerous nations (many badly needed allies), but they also test the resolve of NATO and its members. If NATO nations, especially the U.S., fail to confront this crisis head-on, we run the same risk Chamberlain did with Hitler. We must, in classic Reagan form, achieve peace through strength. Show the Russians some muscle and they will be singing a different song.

    13. Anthony Scarano Bro says:

      First of all this has nothing to do with the CIA

      This has to do with the ever increasing greed, through trade, that we here in america seem to relentlessly seek , we are doing the same with China right now. Let me clarify. After the soviet union broke up , the first thing we did was to allow companies like McDonalds and the such to go there and do buisness with the russians. In effect what we have done was the exact opposite of what President Reagan did to bring down the soviet union, that was we helped them rebuild their economy and once the money started to flow again , it provided the russians with the cash to rebuild the old soviet empire.

      Now understand something the russians only believe in retreiving their old territories and re-establishing the old union. This would give them back the clout they once had.

      One point , you can talk until you are blue in the face to the russians ,but in the end they will always do what they want period…

      Second we need to be very carefull as far as using force with them as , they are not Iraq or Iran or for that matter , even China !

      If the people of america are crying over a moderated war with Iraq , does anyone out there understand that war with the russians is very different and should be extremely evaluated before any actions are considered. If the general outcry is to use force against the russians we must have NATO in it's entirety completely ready to engage in military actions along with the US .

      I will not discuss here in a public forum what and how we would need to deal with the russians on a military basis.

      But talking with the russians never worked , actions such as economic strangulation and building a stronger military then they have , this is the only thing that will make them stop their military excersions. Now and in the future

    14. Fred W. Korkisch, Sa says:

      The facts are somewhat less simple than presented by the comments here, and would certainly require some more analysis and a return to basic considerations:

      Let me present some experiences and ideas, based on 12 years serving in the diplomatic service, and especially dealing with the Soviet Union/Russia, the problems in the Balkans and the Caucasus region:

      A correction and reminder to the current events: The Government of Georgia tried, with a fourth-class army, no air force, and a naive leadership, a badly planned operation to win South Ossetia and Abchasia back, and this despite the fact that these two separatists enclaves are (a) legally still part of (the Republic of) Georgia, but (b) de facto were split away already in 1992 for good, and (c) the Russians were waiting for such a wonderful chance to change a disputed issue into a final one at the expense of a state who tried to be embedded in the family of western democracies. This experience failed, because like in 1956 or 1968, the U.S. would not go to war for a cause it cannot win, the EU would anyway go nowhere.

      The whole affair became a strategic issue for Russia when Georgia, already a member of NATO`s Partnership for Peace, declared in 1999 its interest to join NATO.

      The unbelievable devote performance of Ms. Merkel, the German chancellor when debating Georgia with the Russian president on Sunday the 15th of Aug., was a disservice to Europe and a blow to Georgia as well. Sometimes it is better not to discuss politics with the Russians, especially when one is fully depending on Russian oil supply.

      I would assume that any chances to get these regions back are gone now. We also saw that Russian artillery were for months firing salvos into Georgia, destroying a dozen of villages without much interference by the UN or the "peace loving" experts in the west; Russian fighters were violating Georgian airspace whenever they wanted.

      But why did Georgia not try to silence these guns, or shot the MiG-29 down, coming from the north? If the reason was technical or tactical inability to do so, then any attack by Georgian forces against such an enemy was stupid.

      Or, being more correct: Tiflis made a strategic move without fully consulting its aims with the U.S. Government or the European Union (EU) in the past months. Georgia tries for a number of years to get access to NATO (as full member, and into the EU (as a full member after 2012).

      It must have been clear to all involved in decisionmaking in Tiflis that such a military-style reunification-move, without superior armed forces and good political chances, would be extreme risky, and could fail quickly.

      Native Russians were relocated by Stalin as settlers to Ossetia what was unbalancing the former Georgian and Ossetian (50:50) population equation. In fact, when the Soviet Union disappeared in 1990/91, South Ossetia did not participate in the overall Anti-Communist revolution, and maintained a local "Supreme Soviet" and CPSU leadership. Russia accepting this anomality under Jelzin, in fact never did anything for their own people there, also nothing after 1991, but after 2000 some of the money from selling oil to foreign customers (especially Europe), enabled Moscow to pour some cash into northern and also into South Ossetia. Suddenly, the Russian population was offered Russian passports and also citizenships.

      It is true that Abchasia tried to establish already in 1971 an independent Oblast, but the KGB then arrested a number of these semi-separatist proponents, and the thing was over within four weeks. In 1990/91, with the help of the local KGB, and the Communist Party, Russians were remaining in power in some areas of the collapsing Soviet Union. With the help of Soviet Communists, in the winter of 1991/92, some 90.000 Georgians were simply thrown out of their houses and villages, "cleansing" a majority of 70% ethnic Georgians (Catholics and Georgian Orthodox) into a nearly pure Abchasian-Russian-Orthodox population with the small Muslim percentage. The CSCE in Vienna and the UN in New York were engaged in these issues from 1991-1993, but in vain.

      And there is now Sotchi, a Zarist, and later on a Nomenclatura Soviet vacation-town, which should become the host for the next Winter Olympics. It is an expensive thing to carve out of nowhere an Olympic town, despite the fear of Islamist terrorist attacks. But a number of European winter-industry businesses (so in Austria) fully supported this idea and enjoys right now a healthy cash-flow when selling know how and equipment. No wonder that Georgia is no topic for governments participating in enterprises like this one or are victims of the Russian energy policy and prefer to shut up.

      That Georgians would never turn into terrorists (e.g. against Sotchi) does not matter, the topic is "politics" not logics. So the Olympics are a good excuse to invade into Abachasia and a number of European politicians find this justified (e.g. on the German SPD-left). Moscow can now blame any future misgivings in Sotchi on Georgian sabotage and other "bad peoples", not accepting Russian "peace politics".

      Also: In Abchasia, Russia tried to maintain control of the strategically important Georgian coastline, after it had lost nearly all of the Black Sea area to the Ukraine, including naval bases, shipyards and airbases. Today, Russia faces in the Black Sea NATO members like Rumania, Bulgaria, Greece, and Turkey, the potentially anti-Moscow oriented Ukraine, and now Georgia who wanted, as already mentioned above, to become a full NATO member. Moscow never asked itself why everybody wants to get rid of Soviet-/Russian rule…

      The European governments are fully aware of all of this but were in the past, and still are, politically split. The Pro-Russian western politicians had only the economy in mind, selling everything to Russia and buying energy and other resources. So the idea is, not to be bothered by Georgia and not to risk the healthy cash-flow.

      Especially the French President Mitterrand, and then Chirac, and the German left-wing government of Gerhard Schröder, prevented the EC after 1991 from acting firmly against the Russian policy of threatening former Soviet-Bock states (like the Baltic states).

      Typical is the fate of Belarus or of the Ukraine. Paris and Berlin were even straining the relationship with the US and UK, also with Israel, and even tried to oppose membership of the Baltic States into NATO as "unfriendly acts" vs. Moscow. It was the U.S. who finally insisted in these memberships, supporting the eastern European governments.

      Schröder was thanked for all of his political support by Putin, when he offered him a 2,5 Mio. $ annual job in the Gasprom Co. which Schröder accepted.

      The Government of Georgia made a number of bad and irresponsible mistakes, typical for democratic systems, which have a thin parliamentarian majority:

      Error number one was the disregard of Russian intelligence inside Georgia, who was informing Moscow about all moves of the government in Tiflis and of its armed forces and their weaknesses. When the government in Tiflis arrested some of these agents for subversive acts, Moscow immediately made these agents members of its diplomatic service (an often used Russian trick) and demanded an immediate end of the "reckless and provocative behavior of Georgian authorities vs. Russian citizens".

      Error number two was the disregard of intelligence on the side of Georgia, totally misreading the fact that Russia had prepared the 58th Army to attack within hours, when Georgia would cross the border into Ossetia.

      This Russian assault would probably have happened even without the Georgian attack (on its own terrotory !!!) of last week, but Sakashvili`s move gave Moscow an excellent, even legally accepted excuse, to act quickly under the flag of "protecting Russian Peace Keeping Forces" against a "terrorist" Georgian attack.

      That this "peace-loving" force was in fact a force to keep the legal Georgian government out of enclaves on its own territory is something that everybody knew but was never disputed by other (e.g. by European) governments, including Washington.

      Third, … and all the way up the 100th error: It is stupid to have no Plan B, to ignore warnings, to attack without any air force and no air defense either, with no ability to defend Georgian towns etc, using such inferior forces to attack both enclaves at the same time, with an army that could only send ten badly trained and equipped battalions to attack two rather large targets at the same time without any coordination and mutual support by heavy artillery, helicopters etc., etc.

      Again: The long-term geopolitical and geostrategic aims of Moscow are the "reunification" of Russia within the borders of the former Soviet Union. This is "official policy". No wonder that all former Soviet republics and people try to get away from Moscow whenever they can, and if they can. In most parts of the Caucasus region they could not, but in Georgia they could and this why the government in Moscow and the Russians down there (in the Russian cage) got so upset.

      Calling in the OSCE and the EU as "saviours" for Georgian aims, as negotiators or arbitrators, is a waste of effort and time. Russia sees the OSCE as a nuisance, and for years blocks all progress in meetings. On the other hand, the EU is so much depending on Russian oil and gas that all arbitration will finally end fully accepting all Russian demands. Therefore, Sakashvili is not only naive, but has proven to be a bad tactician, not willing to discuss his intentions with Washington at length. So the U.S. was entrapped by the Government in Tiflis (remember Gen. Bradley) waging war at "the wrong time and at the wrong place". And what should or could Bush and Rice do for a land-locked country when all U.S. forces are more or less engaged? Send the New York Police?

      Human Rights violations: That the Russians are behaving like Russians, should be no surprise, including looting, and burning villages for fun, and even raping women, but most of these atrocities were not committed by regular Russian forces, but the Chechnyan and Ossetian volunteers coming along. However, they were mostly commanded by Russian officers, and were not prevented in their doings by Russian High Command, so the responsibility is on the Russian side, and the Russian side only.

      But this will not bother anybody in Russia, in Brussels, in the UN, or in the OSCE. Or is there anyone recommending arresting Putin & Co., and sending them to the International Court in Hague?

      The UN Security Council is useless and will not act because of a Russian veto. One good thing that Putin had probably not considered is that suddenly Poland quickly signed the missile deal, and another one is that some European governments will (some however will never) wake up, realizing that Russia will never change, and all said in regard to Russian/Soviet politics "near abroad" (see the Russian Security Doctrine) is true. The friendship between Bush and Putin was for the TV-camera only, I hope. Anything else would be a lack of judgement.

      And one other aspect: If Venezuela plays it very stupid, the U.S. will get rid of the Communist government in Caracas quite quickly, and Moscow will then be harshly reminded by Washington about Georgia. Moscow will be on the sidelines when the U.S. Navy will sink all the nice submarines and the fighters on the flight line delivered for a lot of money by Russia.

      So much about Fukuyama-wisdom, "Peace in Our Time" etc.

      One final observation: McCain was able to react immediately to the situation, estimating the events in a competent way. Obama did not, and now, after a full week of fighting, still has not found its way from empty campaign rhetoric to challenges of the real world. This is a bad omen, should this man and his team ever move into the White House.


    15. Wiley Walsh says:

      If I had a greenback for each time I came here! Great writing.

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