Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Well that just about wraps 'er all up

Max commenting on Georgia and Russia over at Unfogged:
To wit: back in the day, the Russians spun out some Soviet Socialist Republics to keep various large minority ethnic groups happy. While some large minority groups (but by no means all of them) were given their own SSRs, the SSRs only loosely followed lines of ethnic division. Minority groups inside the perimeter SSRs were often given their own 'autonomous oblasts' inside the little SSRs. Stalin came for Georgia, and for reasons of geography and Georgian chauvanism, Georgia happens to be about the only former SSR that contains almost all the members of the ethnic group the SSR is dedicated to. (The only Georgian-dominated areas not in Georgia are in Turkey, near as I can tell.) Which means that Georgia also contains lots of bits of other ethnic groups as well. That makes Georgia a midget Russia - that is, a country containing lots of other ethnic groups that would really prefer not be dominated by the majority group.

The map you want to see to help make it clear is right here.

When the Soviet Union self-dissolved, all the little SSRs kept their boundaries and there have been various bubbling hotspots since. So after the dissolution, Georgia had lots of fratricidal warfare; the Abkhaz kicked out the Georgians from their area, while the Ossetians tried to ejects the Georgian from their areas and the Georgians were ejecting Ossetians. From the description I heard, the Georgian campaign against Ossetian areas was quite nasty - as nasty as the Russian campaign against Chechnya.

Meanwhile, in the United States, the end of the cold war apparently resulted in the decision that the cold war should continue ('New World Order'), except that the US would adopt the policy advocated by neo-cons - rollback. Rather than starting a war, this rollback would consist of a peaceful cloak-and-dagger campaign. Your deracinated rootless cosmopolitans of Belgium (aka Eurocrats) decided this would be an excellent plan, as it would enlarge the area controlled by Eurocrats. The Russians, recall, wanted to join NATO and were refused. Which gets us right to the bombing of Yugoslavia, which made the Russians very unhappy, as they have long-standing ties with the Serbs. Seen from Moscow, that event taken together with the expansion of NATO, looked an awful lot like what Napoleon AND Hitler got up to before they invaded Russia. That's because it was... what Napoleon and Hitler got up to. So the Russians started pushing back locally. In particular, they supported the Abkhaz & Ossentian against the Georgians, and let us not forget Chechnya.

Meanwhile, come 911, the US suddenly decided that the most important thing was killing Muslims, because Muslim == terrorist. So for about a year and a half, the US adopted a policy of Great Power cooperation against any and all Muslims. Chechnyans are mostly Muslims, so they made the shit list and everybody decided it was ok if the Russians beat on them some more. Similarly the US suddenly decided to back the Chinese against the Uighers, which is how Uighers wound up in Gitmo. That's what the right hand was doing.

The left hand was, zombie-like, continuing the policy of rollback. So when the US insisted on invading the Iraq and insisted on adding new bases in places like Georgia and Romania and Bulgaria, the Russians looked around and noticed that the encirclement rollback demanded was more or less complete. That was the point at which they start pushing all the former SSRs to get the Yankee bases the hell off their turf. Which of course has produced lots of protests from the US about Putin being anti-democratic and blah de blah blah. That was also the point at which the Russians decided to step up their support for Iran's nuclear program.

After the 2004 election, apparently our many chuckleheads who practice foreign policy in the US decided they had a free hand to do whatever they like, so the CIA intervened in the Ukraine & Georgia against the Russians to um, promote democracy. No one who got elected appears to be much of a democrat, but they want to slurp Americans and apparently that was good enough. So now the Russians are just actively pissed and selling arms to the Iranians and opposing the US where ever.

Back to Georgia. Basically we fed them a bunch of weapons to build a big army, and their goal was to retake Ossetia and Abkhaz. However Russian peacekeepers have been on the ground in both places (I believe the Russians have a naval base in Abkhaz that they've since the end of the USSR) and this has sort of put a damper on the Georgian plans.

Last week the Georgians apparently signed a treaty recognizing the independence of South Ossetia (in exchange for the abandonment of claims to Ossentian territory outside the old Oblast?). Then they turned around and attacked South Ossetia, which includes attacking the Russian peacekeepers.

The thing is, is that the Russians have a rather large army to hand not 50-75 miles away in Chechnya, and they have that naval base in Abkhaz so they said 'Oh, no, you will fucking NOT!' and proceeded to kick the shit out of the Georgians. The news reports suggest that they have stopped at the Georgia-Abkhaz boundary... on the Georgian side of the line. Taking Gori in the center tho, would have to be done if they intend to occupy ALL Ossetian territory in Georgia... because Georgia is basically a big valley with a river running down the middle, and there are Ossetians in the hills above the river on both sides.

(And here's the relief map!)

Of course, the entire reason the Georgians have been dedicated to taking all of Ossetia, is that if that territory were independent or occupied by the Russians, it would split Georgia in half. (Whereas Abkhaz is peripheral, so the Georgians have never tried to retake it after the Abkhaz said fuck off in 1999.)

In any event, in a world where treaties, territorial integrity and/or ethnic cleansing are valid justifications for going to war, it looks an awful lot like the Russians are on the side of the angels here, regardless of their behaviour elsewhere.

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