Sunday, August 31, 2008

Putin's 40 billion plus

Writing in the Jerusalem Post, Caroline Glick has some clear-headed insights into the nature of Russia’s unstable and venal power structure, which is now analogous to those of North Korea and Iran: Excerpt:

…as Pavel Felgenhauer noted on the Jamestown Foundation’s Eurasia Daily Monitor Web publication, Russia’s government-controlled media is engaged in Soviet-like frenzied demonization of US leaders. In one prominent example this week, the government-mouthpiece Izvestia launched an obscene broadside against US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. The newspaper referred to her as “insane,” and then crudely demeaned her as “a skinny old single lady who likes to display her underwear during talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Ivanov.”

As the West scrambles to build a strategy for contending with Russia, many writers and policy-makers have pointed out that Russia is fundamentally weak. As my former Jerusalem Post colleague Bret Stephens noted Tuesday in The Wall Street Journal, Russia’s demographic projection, like its oil and gas production, forecasts, is dim. The CIA has pointed out through demographic attrition, Russia’s population will decline more than 20 percent over the next 40 years. And due to “underinvestment, incompetence, corruption, political interference and crude profiteering,” Russia’s oil production will decline this year for the first time. Its production rates are expected to drop precipitously next year and in the coming years as well.

Cognizant of these negative trends, US and European leaders are hoping that Russia’s bleak prospects will convince its leaders to step back from the precipice of war with the West to which they are now hurtling. On Wednesday, US Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Daniel Fried warned, “Russia is going to have to come to terms with the reality that it can either integrate with the world or it can be a self-isolated bully. But it can’t have both.”

WHILE IT remains to be seen if the West will agree to isolate the Russian bully, it is certainly the case that Russia’s leaders are not blind to their country’s weaknesses. This is so because to a large degree, Russia’s dim long-term prognosis has been caused by the domestic policies of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and his cronies. And in light of this, it can be safely assumed that far from causing them to avoid confrontation with the West, their cognizance of Russia’s problems is what caused them to adopt their belligerent posture.

In December, Russian political insider Stanislav Belkovsky told the German media that during his two terms as Russia’s president, Putin amassed a fortune in excess of $40 billion, making him the wealthiest man in Europe. Putin’s wealth has been built through his ownership of vast holdings in three Russian oil and gas companies.

Were Putin invested in the long-term prosperity and strength of his country, he would have invested that money in Russia. Instead he has squirreled it away in bank accounts in Switzerland and Liechtenstein. And of course, Putin is not alone in betting his wealth against his country’s future. Like him, his cronies in the Kremlin and the FSB (Federal Security Service) have accrued their wealth through their ownership in Russian companies that Putin has nationalized. And like him, they have taken their loot out of the country.

The behavior of Russia’s rulers makes clear that they do not concern themselves with the long-term health of their country as they construct their policies. And their concentration on short-term gains makes their decision to confront the US and Europe inevitable. It is now, when Russia’s oil wealth is at its peak, that they are most powerful. And with their current power they seek to maximize their personal gains while justifying their actions in the name of Russian glory.

The Five Principles

The first two are:

1) Russia recognizes the priority of the fundamental provisions of international law, is opposed to a unipolar world order, and avoids confrontation with other states.

2) Russia will protect its citizens wherever they are, and will defend their interests in regions where there are countries friendly to Russia. These are not only states which have a common border with Russia.

Yevloyev assassinated reports that Magomed Yevloyev, owner of the web site, which is critical of Moscow-backed President Zyazikov, has been shot and killed in Nazran.

According to the web site's staff, Yevloyev arrived on the same plane as Ingushetian President Murat Zyazikov. After the president left, men from the bodyguard of the Ingushetian interior ministry surrounded Yevloyev, made him get into a car and drove him away.

According to the editors of the site, on the way from the airport Yevloyev was shot in the head, and then thrown out of the car. The seriously wounded man was found by his relatives, who had come to meet him. They took Yevloyev to hospital, where he later died.

Reuters has a report here.

RFE/RL has another Reuters report here.

Life or sausage

There are signs that the Kremlin's current obduracy in the face of the international reaction to its invasion, occupation and partial annexation of Georgian territory has roots in something other than a desire to show the world how big its muscles are. On Friday, Vladimir Putin gave another interview to German television, in which he speculated on the likely economic consequences of Russia's recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, and its military presence on the ground.

"What, can we not protect the lives of our citizens there? And if we defend our lives, will they take away our sausage (kolbasa - the word also has the connotation of "bread and butter"). What is our choice - between life and sausage? We shall choose life," Putin exploded.

This response appears to indicate that Putin inclines towards the anti-modernizing Kremlin trend recently alluded to by Pavel Felgenhauer:

...presidentlal adviser Gleb Pavlovsky has said in a radio interview (on Ekho Moskvy) that there is a "party of war" inside the Kremlin - a group of high officials that are pressing for a direct attack on Tbilisi to overthrow the Georgian government. Pavlovsky states the alleged "party of war" wants to use the conflict with Georgia to undermine President Dmitry Medvedev's plans of modernize Russia, that "they say we must go further than Tbilisi," apparently indicating possible plans of further military action to subdue other pro-Western Russian neighboring nations like Ukraine.

If Russia continues along the path of international isolation, the economic consequences for the country are likely be catastrophic. In a recently-published article in Grani, former Russian prime minister Mikhail Kasyanov outlines some of the probable results:

In all likelihood, we can expect a decline in the volume of purchases of imports, our dependence on which has grown strongly. in recent years. The risks are growing. Once again, as in the 1990s, there is a flight of capital from Russia. The banking sector will not be able to supply our industry and middle class with the credit they need.

Meanwhile the rate of inflation will not grow less because of these actions. Moreover, I am certan that from January 1 next year, the tariffs for gas, electricity, and transport will once again be increased. The increase in tariffs will automatically affect all other goods in production. As soon as the authorities feel the worsening of economic situation, as it will be necessary to maintain the profits of the state corporations, we will all be told to tighten our belts, and come together, because we now live in a state of cold war. And then we will all be summoned to the trenches.

It is probably safe to assume that the tightening of the belts will apply first and foremost to Russia's enormous, hard-pressed civilian population, and last of all to its small, affluent political and financial elite.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Russia's invasion welcomed in Middle East

Via the Washington Post. Excerpt:
For some in the Middle East, the images of Russian tanks rolling into Georgia in defiance of U.S. opposition have revived warm memories of the Cold War.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad flew last week to Moscow, where he endorsed Russia's offensive in Georgia and, according to Russian officials, sought additional Russian weapon systems.

Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi's influential son, echoed the delight expressed in much of the Arab news media. "What happened in Georgia is a good sign, one that means America is no longer the sole world power setting the rules of the game," the younger Gaddafi was quoted as telling the Russian daily Kommersant. "There is a balance in the world now. Russia is resurging, which is good for us, for the entire Middle East."

In Turkey, an American and European ally that obtains more than two-thirds of its natural gas from Russia, the reaction was more complex. Turks watched as the United States, NATO and a divided European Union hesitated in the face of Russian military assertiveness, leaving them more doubtful than they already were about depending on the West to secure U.S.-backed alternative oil and gas supply lines.

The role of the OSCE

AFP and BBC say that ahead of Monday's EU emergency meeting Russia has called for more OSCE monitors to be sent to Georgia. It needs to be recalled that what Russia is currently doing in Georgia is essentially a large-scale, multi-layered spetsnaz operation, in which actions on the ground are combined with propaganda that is interwoven with sudden and apparently unpredictable switches of "policy", designed to confuse and distract. At the same time as Medvedev's call for extra monitors (relayed in a statement and also by Medvedev to Britain's Gordon Brown) went out, Der Spiegel published the news that OSCE monitors have accused Georgia of triggering the crisis on August 7. As Russia is a member of the OSCE, the release of these two pieces of news at the same time is probably no accident.

Update: The Spiegel claim has been rejected by an OSCE official:

The German weekly Der Spiegel separately reported that OSCE observers were blaming Georgia, whose bid to join NATO is championed by the United States, for triggering the crisis in a series of unofficial reports presented to the German government.

However, OSCE spokesman Martin Nesirky later rejected the claim, saying "none of" its regular reports distributed to 56 members through diplomatic channels "contains information of the kind mentioned in the Der Spiegel story."

Data on Russian troops in Georgia [, mia]

MIA Issues Data on Russian Troops in Georgia
Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 30 Aug.'08 / 13:33

The Georgian Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) released date on deployment of the Russian military on various locations on the Georgian territory as of August 27. 

“All locations and numbers given here are double-checked,” the ministry said. “MIA could not verify all information available and the actual number of both Russian military equipment and personnel on the ground may be much higher.”

Below is the data as provided by the Georgian MIA:

Russian Illegal checkpoints in Georgia

Locations of the Russian illegal checkpoints in the Eastern Georgia, including Shida Kartli, other adjacent areas of “South Ossetia” and “South Ossetia” itself according to the MIA sources as of August 27 2008:

1. Perevi (Sachkhere district)
2. Ghodora (Sachkhere district)
3. Muguti (Znauri district)
4. Ali (Khashuri district)
5. Ptsa (Kareli district)
6. Variani (Gori district)
7. Karaleti (Gori district)
8. Shavshvebi (Gori district)
9. Ergneti (Gori district)
10. Tsiara (Java  district)

Note: There are approximately 60 Russian servicemen and 4 armoured vehicles stationed in each place. The vehicles often move from one place to another “patrolling” the nearby territories and villages.

11. Ikoti in Akhalgori district (7 infantry combating vehicles, 1 armoured vehicle, 6 Ural-type vehicles, 2 Gaz-66 vehicles, 1 military power shovel, 1 mobile medical unit, 2 granade-launchers, trenches are dug, 100 Russian servicemen)
12. Approximately 150 armoured vehicles are stationed on the territory between villages Meghvrekisi and Brotsleti in the Gori district.
13. 1 km North of Odzisi in the Akhalgori district (1 armoured vehicle, 15 Russian servicemen)
14. Village Mosabruni in the Akhalgori district (1 armoured vehicle, 15 Russian servicemen)

Note: Russian servicemen and armoured vehicles on newly opened check-point north of Odzisi and Mosabruni were redeployed from other checkpoints.

Locations of the Russian checkpoints in the Western Georgia according to the MIA sources as of August 27 2008:

Samegrelo-Zemo Svaneti Region

1. Village Teklati (near city Senaki), on the territory of the former mechanical plant (5 armoured vehicles, 1 crane, 2 Ural-type vehicles, 1 vehicle with communication systems, 1 UAZ-type vehicle, 1 Vilis-type car, 1 large army tent, trenches are dug, 40 Russian servicemen)

2. Village Pirveli Maisi (Khobi district), near former Georgian police check-point (2 armoured vehicles,  2 Ural-type vehicles, 1 UAZ-type vehicle, 1 large army tent, trenches are dug, 40 Russian servicemen)

3. In Poti between villages Shua Khorga and Chaladidi (Khobi district), so called Poti Minor, near the turning to Kulevi oil terminal (4 armoured vehicles, 2 Ural-type vehicles, 1 large army tent, 30 Russian servicemen)

4. Village Menji, Bakaraia neighborhood (Senaki district), on the territory of sanatorium “Menji”, 10 meters from railroad (3 armoured vehicle, 4 Ural-type vehicle, 2 cranes, 1 military power shovel, 1 large army tent, 40 Russian servicemen)

5. Village Kantisubani, between Tsalenjikha-Chkhorotsku road section (3 armoured vehicles, 2 Ural-type vehicles, 1 large army tent, trenches are dug, 30 Russian servicemen)

6. Crossroad at the entrances of villages Chale and Muzhava in the Tsalenjikha district (3 armoured vehicles, 1 Ural-type vehicle, 20 Russian servicemen)

7. Town Chkhorotsku, on the territory of former airfield, near Senaki-Chkhorotsku highway (3 armoured vehicles, 2 Ural-type vehicles, 1 vehicle with electricity generator, 2 large army tents, 40 Russian servicemen)

8. Nabada settlement, at the entrance of Poti (2 armoured vehicles, 1 Ural-type vehicle, 1 UAZ-type vehicle, 1 military power shovel, 1 large army tent, 30 Russian servicemen)

Upper Abkhazia/Kodori Gorge

9. Gentsvisi
10. Omarishara
11. Sakeni
12. Chkhalta
13. Kvapchara

Note: Due to the extremely difficult situation in the region, obtaining accurate numbers on Russian and Abkhaz military deployment is difficult. All sources report substantial Russian and Abkhaz deployments in the region.

In addition, deputy head of the Russian General Staff, colonel-general Anatoly Nogovitsin stated during the press-conference on August 22, 2008 that the Russian armed forces established new checkpoints in the following locations:

14. Khudoni
18. Meore Gudava
19. Anaklia
20. Mount Kvira

Note: The Russian side has not denied existence of the abovementioned checkpoints throughout Georgia.

Total number of personnel and vehicles:

• Russian servicemen: 970
• Armoured vehicles: 66
• Infatry combating vehicles: 7
• Grenade launchers: 2
• Ural-type vehicles: 22
• UAZ-type vehicle: 3
• Gaz-66 vehicles: 2
• Vilis-type car: 1
• Military Army tent: 8
• Crane: 3
• Military power shovel: 3
• Vehicle with communication systems: 1
• Vehicle with electricity generator: 1
• Mobile medical unit: 1

The Thinker

A thoughtful Jussi.

Patriotic acts

President Mikheil Saakashvili is proposing a Georgian version of the USA Patriot Act in order to deter possible attempts by Russia to overthrow him and his government, Civil Georgia reports:

“It obvious that their goal was not taking over Tskhinvali, which is Georgia’s provincial town - only few people in Russia may know where it is located,” Saakashvili said at the meeting, which was televised live by the Rustavi 2 TV. “Their [Russia’s] goal was to take over Tbilisi and to overthrow the government.”

He said that Russians made it clear even publicly few days ago – apparently referring to the Russian Foreign Ministry’s August 26 statement in which it said “the Saakashvili regime does not at all meet the high standards set by the world community” and added it was sure that “sooner or later” the Georgian people would have “worthy leaders.”

Saakashvili said that he planned to propose the parliament to develop “the patriotic act” and added that this new legislature – details of which he did not elaborate – would no way infringe the civil liberties.

“This will be carried out under the condition of maintaining democracy, freedom and liberties,” he added and repeated it for couple of more times.

Meanwhile in Russia, influential voices are being raised with calls for government measures that certainly will infringe civil liberties:

The fallout may be felt most inside Russia itself. Hopes for liberalisation and modernisation under Mr Medvedev have evaporated. In the past few days the Kremlin has rejected Mikhail Khodorkovsky's parole application, refused to grant Russian citizenship to an investigative Moldovan journalist from Russia and briefly detained protesters in Red Square who held a banner "For Your Freedom and Ours" in a repeat of a protest against the invasion of Czechoslovakia staged by dissidents 40 years ago. Views once considered extreme are creeping into the mainstream. For example, Alexander Dugin, a nationalist ideologue, greeted events in Georgia by celebrating the removal of the previous "masks". "We are at war," he proclaimed. "Now the country should fight not only against its external enemies but also with the fifth column. Pro-Western liberals …should be interned. War is war. The time of patriots is coming: the time for revenge for all the humiliation from these people that we have been suffering for years."

Friday, August 29, 2008

Putin and the bad advice

That there is at present something seriously wrong with the Kremlin's propaganda machine is demonstrated in no uncertain terms by prime minister Putin's latest outburst suggesting that the United States helped Georgia for domestic political reasons - as White House Press Secretary Dana Perino pointed out.

"To suggest that the United States orchestrated this on behalf of a political candidate - it sounds not rational," she said.

"Those claims first and foremost are patently false, but it also sounds like his defence officials who said they believed this to be true are giving him really bad advice."

Moscow and its siloviki had better get their act together - or they risk finally losing the information war in the same way as they have already lost the diplomatic war. There's a limit to how far a disinformation campaign can rely on word of mouth, gullible journalists and pass the parcel to distribute its messages - if their content is simply too outlandish, the messages become at best self-defeating satire and fantasy, and at worst, dissolve into mere gibberish.


"The oddity of this convention is that its central figure is the ultimate self-made man, a dazzling mysterious Gatsby. The palpable apprehension is that the anointed is a stranger -- a deeply engaging, elegant, brilliant stranger with whom the Democrats had a torrid affair. Having slowly woken up, they see the ring and wonder who exactly they married last night."

- Charles Krauthammer, on the enigmatic Barack Obama.

Anti-semitism linked to anti-Georgian campaign

Window on Eurasia writes of how

Russian anti-Semites are using their media outlets to play up the links between Georgia and Israel and what they claim is the central role of the Jewish state in helping Georgia to become a military threat to Russia, reportage that cannot fail in the current environment to rekindle anti-Semitic attitudes among some radical Russian nationalists.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Putin: Georgia war was all about McCain

Russia's prime minister Vladimir Putin has advanced the novel thesis that what he called "the attack by Georgia on South Ossetia" was facilitated by the United States Republican Party in order to boost Senator John McCain's poll ratings, which had been falling behind those of his rival, Barack Obama, reports.

This is clearly intended to play well with the crowds at the Democratic convention in Denver, Colorodo, this evening, when Senator Obama takes the platform. For Mr. Putin is an Obama supporter.

Finnish Islamists back Russia

The possibility that Islamist movements in Europe and probably also further afield to some extent work in harmony with the Putin/Medvdev schemes in the field of military and foreign policy is evidenced by an interesting statement by the Finnish Islamic Party (Suomenislamilainenpuolue), which aims to represent the interests of Finland's small Muslim minority. The statement condemns the "aggressive acts of the Georgian leadership" and gives the party's full support to Russia. It also makes a savage attack on the president and government of Estonia, and demands that President Saakashvili be put on trial for war crimes. Although Finland's Muslims are mostly Tatars, and have little time for fundamentalist ideology, the document is a curious and revealing indicator of the sort of sources where the Kremlin may really be deriving support in today's world. The fact that the Hamas organization was the first to recognize Abkhazia and South Ossetia may not be a coincidence.

That some voices in Finland may be helping to foment a movement which they call a "Russian Intifada" among Estonia's Russian-speaking minority is shown by this blog, which is dedicated to the subject.

There has long been a noted connection between the Kremlin and Islamist groupings, and it is no secret that, as Alexander Litvinenko pointed out before he was brutally murdered in London, Al-Qaeda’s Ayman al-Zawahiri trained at a Federal Security Service (the former Russian KGB) base in Dagestan in 1998.

EU considering sanctions on Russia

Russia may set up military bases in Abkhazia/S.Ossetia

Interfax reports a "military diplomatic source" in Moscow as saying that Russia may set up three military bases in Abkhazia and South Ossetia (my tr.):

"Military experts working with specialists from other departments are considering the possible deployment of military bases in the Abkhaz towns of Gudauta and Ochamchira, and also in Dzhava, South Ossetia," the agency spokesman said. 

In clarification, he remarked that it would be preferable for the bases to be located in places where miliary units were stationed in Soviet times. "In Gudauta, where there's a military airfield, a paratroop assault unit could be based,  for example, with aircraft and air defence facilities, part of the Black Sea fleet could be put in the port of Ochamchira and in Dzhava a motorized infantry brigade."

Carl Bildt in the FT

The Financial Times has published an interview with Sweden's foreign minister, Carl Bildt. As the foreign minister notes in his blog, "interest in what Sweden has to say about the European situation just now seems to be relatively strong." Excerpt:

Carl Bildt told the FT: “They are opening up a Pandora’s box of questions that will be extremely difficult to answer. If you are interested in the stability of the Caucasus – and Russia is more interested in that than anyone else – you should be very careful with borders. . . They have fought two wars in Chechnya.” Mr Bildt said Russia had sent “shockwaves of fear” throughout the region, but he argued it was likely to be the biggest long-term loser by choosing international confrontation over economic “modernisation”.

- - - - - -

“South Ossetian independence is a joke. We are talking about a smugglers’ paradise of 60,000 people financed by the Russian security services. No one can seriously consider that as an independent state,” he said. 

See also: Bildt: Russia has chosen confrontation

Shaky structure

At Prague Watchdog, Sergei Gligashvili considers an empire on the verge of collapse.

Uncovering the truth

Michael J. Totten, who is in Tbilisi, has a long, illustrated report containing numerous interviews and other features, outlining the origins and sources of the Georgia conflict. Although Totten was guided by an advisor to the Georgian government, he was also able to check many details of what he was told with an independent observer, the Caucasus expert and academic Thomas Goltz, who is quite widely quoted in the text. In particular, Totten is at pains to point out that the present stage of conflict began not on August 7, but on August 6, when an attack by Ossetian forces backed by Ingush, Chechen, Ossetian and Cossack irregulars. This in turn was a sequel to a long series of incidents of Ossetian-organized violence, which coincided with Russia holding

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.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Only Hamas

Window on Eurasia comments that only the Palestinian terrorist organization Hamas has so far backed the Kremlin's recognition of  Abkhazia and South Ossetia, though anti-American states like Cuba and Venezuela are likely to follow suit.

The Good News and the Bad

As Britain’s foreign secretary makes his way to Kiev for talks with President Yushchenko, who has described Ukraine as a hostage in a war now being waged by Russia on most of its immediate neighbours, and as President Saakashvili of Georgia accuses Russia’s leaders of attempting to revive the Soviet Union, it may be useful to pause for a moment and consider what has actually happened in the Kremlin during the last month or so. What has really taken place is the culmination of one stage in a lengthy process of repositioning in Moscow’s stance vis-a-vis the West which began in the early 1990s and has continued without a break through consecutive stages until now.

The apparent failure and collapse of the Soviet Union was an important step in the process of reshaping Russia’s consistently hostile policy towards Western Europe and the United States – a policy that has not really changed in over a century, from Tsarism through Soviet Communism to the present day. It gave Russia’s military, political and security elite time to elaborate and implement a series of moves in the international arena which were essentially aimed at distracting and confusing Western policy makers and strategists about Russia’s intentions, and in masking the true nature of Russia’s social and political system. That system is essentially that of a nineteenth century military dictatorship. The trappings of what became known as “Soviet Russia” were, after all, not much more than a set of pompous and lacklustre decorations disguising the fact that even though the national stock of armaments, like the bank balances of Russia’s leaders, increased and continued to increase, the vast mass of the citizenry was held as before in conditions of social and economic servitude. As Vladimir Bukovsky remarked, the West ended the Cold War one day too early.

Under Yeltsin, a deliberate policy of emulating “capitalism” according to a crude, caricaturized version of the supposed rival to the decommissioned communist system was above all aimed at fostering feelings of acute resentment among a populace which had for decades been heavily conditioned with Marxist-Leninist propaganda. This policy was preceded by a period of “gear-changing” in the form of Mikhail Gorbachev’s “perestroika” (rebuilding), which was directed less at Russia’s own citizens than at the outside world, and was intended to persuade Western observers that Russia was about to democratize itself. Yeltsin soon put an end to these naive hopes, however, by running the country into the ground economically and persisting with a militaristic policy which included a major war of aggression on Russian soil against one of Russia’s own ethnic minorities. The political elite continued to enrich itself at the expense of the majority of the population – the party bosses of the Soviet era were replaced by the financial “oligarchs”, many of whom , like Yeltsin himself, were former Party members . The “Russian Mafia” was a post-modern arm and extension of the old, Lenin-created Cheka.

Meanwhile in the West, political leaders and public opinion alike began to make believe that Russia really had undergone fundamental internal change, and that the processes underway there were akin to those in the former “satellite states” which had broken free at the time of the supposed collapse of the Soviet system. Various factors were at work in this self-deception, not least the desire among the governments of Europe and the United States to make economies in defence spending. Another factor was a strain of triumphalism, particularly on the right of the US political spectrum, which trumpeted the theme that the West had “won the Cold War”.

All this was called into question, or should have been, when in 1999 Yeltsin appointed Vladimir Putin, a former KGB colonel, as his successor. Carefully and methodically, Putin began a step-by-step rollback of the social and political “freedoms” that had been granted under the former presidency – the “freedom” granted by Yeltsin had really amounted to little more than a state of social anarchy, the result of a deliberate policy aimed against his own subjects. With Putin, the movement back to Soviet norms began – with an added flourish, because as the Soviet Union no longer existed formally, the new regime could additionally extend its sights back into history and, in a sense, take up the slack that Imperial Russia had left behind. The “best” of both worlds – nineteenth century and twentieth century Russia, imperial expansionism and Soviet hegemony – began to shape the new, nationalist idea. Hoary idea-systems dating back to the 1920s and even earlier, like that of “Eurasianism”, have been dusted off and given new life by a group of politically tamed intellectuals who can best be compared to the forerunners of National Socialist and Stalinist ideology. The post-modern “twist” is again in evidence here.

So now in the Russia of Putin and Medvedev the peace of the world has an adversary that is only apparently new and transformed. It is really no more than a recognizable heir and successor to its forebears. This can, however, be the source of some reassurance: for the recommended methods for dealing with a leopard that hasn’t changed its spots haven’t changed much either. A recent article in the Washington Post expresses astonishment mixed with horror that “something far more dangerous than mere authoritarianism has arisen in Putin's Russia. A peculiar blend of political autocracy and corruption, seamlessly fusing political, economic and military power, threatens world peace. Challenging this state of affairs is a strategic necessity.” Yet the challenge is an old one, and it has been dealt with many times before.

Ukraine and Estonia currently face the most palpable threat from the Russia that has finally dropped its mask in Georgia during the past three weeks. With Russian annexation of Abkhazia and South Ossetia probably a short way off, Estonia’s former ambassador to Moscow has commented that Estonia may be the next object of Russia’s experiments with Western tolerance of aggression, which he thinks may include energy blackmail and the use of an internal fifth column. If NATO were to react swiftly in the case of Russian military action and were to mount large-scale operations in Estonia, the attack would fail. He recommends the freezing of the Russian leadership’s bank accounts in Western countries, and the declaring of Russian government personnel as persona non grata.

The good news is that the challenge outlined in the Washington Post article doesn’t really demand many new ideas on the part of the West – a revival of the policies of military and strategic containment that were developed during the Cold War would probably be sufficient, as the changes in Russia are superficial, and the Kremlin’s planning and thinking remain essentially the same as they were three decades ago. Even the military rhetoric and war hysteria propagated by Moscow in order to intimidate the West remain the same. And given the shakiness of Russia's "Empire" and the fragility of its borders, the threat that Russia poses may not be quite as formidable as some appear to believe. What is required, however, in view of the possibility that a crumbling structure can be more dangerous than a solid one, is a revitalizing of NATO’s original purpose, so that it once again becomes an effective tool for dealing with Russia’s aggressive ventures – and so that it is once again ready, as it was throughout the Cold War, to fight the real war which most people hope will not come.

For the bad news remains as bad as ever.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Next Steps on Georgia

The Washington Post has a list of the many steps the West can take in response to Russia's violation of the cease fire agreement it signed. But the steps need to be taken quickly and without delay.

McCotter Policy Recommendations

Congressman Thaddeus McCotter Central and Eastern Europe Policy Recommendations

*President Bush should publicly urge the European Union to accelerate accession and partnership negotiations with Ukraine and Georgia.

*Congress should authorize a large-scale Foreign Military Financing (FMF) assistance package to CEE countries (possibly authorizing American military advisors to be placed in CEE- with the permission of host countries).

*Congress should authorize qualified, non-NATO CEE allies to receive the same Foreign Military Sales (FMS) preferential treatment as NATO+3 (Australia, Japan, and NZ).

*Congress should authorize additional Economic Support Funding (ESF) to Georgia to repair its damaged infrastructure.

* President Bush has directed the United States Permanent Representative to NATO to use the voice, vote, and influence of the United States at NATO to ensure NATO offers Membership Action Plans (MAP) to Georgia and the Ukraine and indefinitely suspends high level NATO-Russia Council (NRC) meetings, the President and Congress should continue these efforts.

*Congress should enact a series of triggers to end Russia's PNTR and sanction Russia with Column Two Tariff Rates if they attack a CEE country.

*Congress should enact Representative Chris Smith’s Belarus Democracy Reauthorization Act.

*Eventually, Congress and the President need to agree to classify large-scale, organized cyber attacks against government web sites constitute an act of aggression.

*Convene a Joint Session of Congress for Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili to address the vital importance of maintaining the sovereignty, security, and liberty of the Georgian people and her CEE neighbors.

How to contact your congressman about Russian invasion of Georgia
1. Dial               1-202-225-3121         and you will be connected to the main Congressional switchboard, the operator will answer.
2. Ask the operator to transfer you to your Representative’s office.
3. Your call will be transferred to your congressman’s office, and when the person answers, simply say “Hello, my name is________, I live in_________(name your city), and I would like Congressman________ to sign Congressman McCotter’s letter which invites Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvilli to address a joint session of congress.”
4.  Often, the congressional office will ask for your name and address so the Member of Congress may acknowledge your call by writing you a letter.  Do not worry that you will be asked to justify or explain the policy behind your phone call.  These are routine calls that each office is accustomed to, and it will go smoothly and quickly.

Statement by the President of Georgia

26 August 2008 / 20:10

Statement by the President of Georgia Mikheil Saakashvili

The Russian Federation's actions are an attempt to militarily annex a sovereign nation-the nation of Georgia. This is in direct violation of international law and imperils the international security framework that has ensured peace, stability, and order for the past 60 years.

Russia's decision today confirms that its invasion of Georgia was part of a broader, premeditated plan to redraw the map of Europe. Russia today has violated all treaties and agreements that it has previously signed.

Russia's actions have been condemned in the strongest possible terms by the entire international community, which has reaffirmed its support for Georgia's territorial integrity. The Government of Georgia is grateful for the world's support.

The regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia are recognized by international law as being within the borders of Georgia.

Today, by its actions, the Russian Federation is seeking to validate the use of violence,direct military aggression, and ethnic cleansing to forcibly change the borders of a neighboring state.

Russia's refusal to withdraw its military forces from Georgia-and its attempt to annex two regions of Georgia-is in direct violation of the EU-brokered cease fire to end its invasion and occupation of Georgia.

The two regions in question have been de-populated by conflict and continue to be subject to widespread ethnic cleansing by Russia and its proxies-as confirmed by the United Nations and other international bodies.

These are areas where the local populations- simply because of their nationality - have been chased out, with the direct intervention of the Russian Federation.

The few civilians who remain in these regions have been given Russian passports en masse, in violation of international law and norms, making a mockery of the principle of “right to protect”.

One such expulsion took place in 1993 in Abkhazia. Others took place last week in South Ossetia and in Upper Abkhazia/the Kodori Gorge.

I remind you that before the first conflict, more than 525,000 people livedin Abkhazia. Today less than 150,000 do.

I remind you that ethnic Georgians in South Ossetia have been systematically forced to flee that territory due to Russia's invasion. The attacks on ethnic Georgians, both inside and outside the conflict zones, are continuing.

The ethnic cleansing is something that the local rebel separatists are proud to announce - and which Russia, through its actions, is attempting to legalize.

Is it legal to remove ethnic groups from their homes using violence and terror?

Is it moral or legal for an ethnically cleansed area to be rewarded with independence by a neighbor?

If intervention in Kosovo was about stopping ethnic cleansing, today's decision by the Russian Federation is about rewarding and legalizing ethnic cleansing.

Russia has turned logic and morality on its head.

Russia's decision is therefore a direct and grave challenge to the international order.This a challenge for the entire world. Not just Georgia.

It means that today, annexation and ethnic cleansing have once again become tools of international relations.

If accepted by the international community, it means that foreign-sponsored groups around the world can use violence and ethnic cleansing to achieve their ends.

It means that third parties can arm, sustain and direct those groups in order to change the borders on the world's map.

Today, it is clear around the world that Russia is acting as an aggressor state.

My appeal to the free world is to condemn and reject Russia's dangerous and irrational decision - NOT only for Georgia's sake - but for the sake of preserving the fundamental basis of international law and order.

On behalf of my Government and people, I condemn this reckless act and want to state clearly that the Russian action does not hold any legal value.

As before - and according to international law, Georgia's territorial integrity and sovereignty is inviolable.

Russia's aims, method and goals are now clear.

The Russian Federation has used military force to try to dismember my country.

In the days and weeks ahead we will work with the international community to prevent this decision from having any effect on the sovereignty of my country and from further undermining the international order.

Together we must stand united against this aggression and call on you for your assistance and immediate reaction.

This is a test for the entire world and a test for our collective solidarity.

This is the test that we - all free people - must not fail.

My friends, we are all concerned today. And today Georgia counts on your support.

Today a challenge has been posed to all of us.

Today the fate of Europe and the free world is unfortunately being played out in my small country.

But together, we can and we must unite to meet this challenge.

Press Office
of the President of Georgia

Merkel: Russian recognition "not acceptable"

Declaring independence

Window on Eurasia has a post on the reactions of Chechens to Russian president Dmitry Medvedev's statement announcing Russia's formal recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

Georgian Foreign Ministry Statement

A statement issued by the Georgian Foreign Ministry today says that the fact, stated by Russia, that it does not plan to withdraw its troops from Georgian territory "indicates clearly that the Russian Federation after its attempts of military intervention in Georgia, invasion of a part of Georgian territory and overthrow of the democratically elected government, has decisively chosen ethnic cleansing and destruction of civilian infrastructure with the use of military force as an instrument of its foreign policy." In addition, it says:

Russian troops are illegally stationed in Poti and its adjacent area located 30 kilometers away from the conflict zone of Abkhazia and 160 kilometers away from the conflict zone of Tskhinvali region.

On 25 August 2008, late at night, drunken Russian servicemen broke into a local plant of the Nikora private company in Poti robbing and raiding it. This fact makes it obvious that the Russian occupation troops present in Georgia have turned into gangs of looters riding roughshod on the civilian population and economic infrastructure.

The Georgian foreign ministry "calls on the international community to take all measures necessary to prevent the Russian Federation from invading the territory of Georgia, conducting ethnic cleansing and destroying its economy."

Bildt: Russia has chosen confrontation

Sweden's foreign minister Carl Bildt writes (my tr.):

That the Russian leadership has chosen this path means it has chosen a policy of confrontation not only with the rest of Europe but also with the international community as a whole.

The decision means that Russia has now opted for a route which will have far-reaching consequences for a long time to come.

Att den ryska statsledningen nu valt denna väg innebär att man valt en politik av konfrontation med icke bara det övriga Europa utan också det internationella samfundet i stort.

Beslutet innebär ett ryskt vägval med genomgripande konsekvenser för lång tid framöver.

Britain calls for international coalition

The Logic of Occupation

Victor Yasmann (RFE/RL) writes - just before today's announcement of Russia's recognition of Abkhazian and South Ossetian "independence" - about the looming diplomatic war between Russia and the West. Excerpt:
Russia is following a precise logic in its actions. Moscow will recognize the "independence" of the two republics and conclude agreements on political, military, and economic support with them. Furthermore, as Medvedev promised, Russia will give international guarantees to both republics, meaning that it will lobby for their recognition by the United Nations. From a legal point of view, international organizations can ignore pleas from the unrecognized republics themselves, but they cannot ignore appeals from Moscow.

In making those appeals, it seems Russia is not likely to stress the idea of self-determination, which is a potentially explosive argument for Russia itself and other CIS countries. Instead, it will actively push arguments related to charges of Georgian "genocide" and the legally "incorrect" way in which Georgia left the Soviet Union in 1991. In the latter case, Moscow will argue that the peoples of Abkhazia and South Ossetia never wanted to take such a step.

It seems unlikely that any Western countries will acknowledge the two republics anytime in the foreseeable future, just as Russia and most CIS countries will not recognize Kosovo. In addition, Russia's main Asian partners -- Iran, China, and India -- will also decline to recognize Abkhazia and South Ossetia, inasmuch as they have their own real and potential ethnic troubles. But Russia will be satisfied even if the two regions establish a status similar to that of the Republic of Northern Cyprus, which has been recognized only by Ankara for decades.

The strengthening of Russia's position in the CIS will lead to increased tensions with almost all countries that have significant Russia populations or large numbers of Russian citizens. Primarily, this means Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and Belarus.

As for Georgia's territorial integrity, it has clearly fallen victim to Moscow's insistence that Georgia never join NATO. Before the war, Moscow tried to achieve this goal through the frozen conflicts. Now, despite the war, Moscow's main aim is unchanged.

The presence of Russian forces and the creation of buffer zones on Georgian territory will simply solidify the state of conflict and complicate Tbilisi's efforts to join NATO. On the one hand, all NATO members have expressed solidarity with Georgia and are ready to offer help. On the other hand, granting NATO membership to a country entangled in a military confrontation with Russia will certainly not be easy. It is possible the United States might conclude a bilateral agreement with Georgia, similar to the one it concluded with Poland as part of the missile-defense accord.

Moscow is also no doubt hoping that, with time, Georgians will become increasingly enraged about the losses of Abkhazia and South Ossetia and will replace Saakashvili with a leadership that is more acceptable to Russia. Moscow might facilitate this scenario by stimulating separatist feelings in Mingrelia and Ajara, which border Abkhazia. These efforts could lead to the disintegration of Georgia or, at least, to that country losing its access to the Black Sea.

In order to counter such a scheme, the West would have to find quick and effective methods of integrating both Georgia and Ukraine into the Euro-Atlantic community.

US Senators on Russia's Aggression

In the Wall Street Journal, Republican senator Lindsey Graham and Independent Democratic senator Joe Lieberman have published a joint statement on the Georgia crisis and the implications of Russia's aggression. They point to the growing evidence that Russia plans to repeat its actions in Georgia elsewhere among its neighbours, in the Baltic States, Poland, Ukraine and Crimea. Noting that any assistance plan to Georgia must include the rebuilding of its armed forces, including the anti-armour and defensive antiaircraft capabilities that have so far been denied to them, the senators look to the wider regional context, and stress that
Our response to the invasion of Georgia must include regional actions to reassure Russia's rattled neighbors and strengthen trans-Atlantic solidarity. This means reinvigorating NATO as a military alliance, not just a political one. Contingency planning for the defense of all member states against conventional and unconventional attack, including cyber warfare, needs to be revived. The credibility of Article Five of the NATO Charter -- that an attack against one really can and will be treated as an attack against all -- needs to be bolstered.

The U.S. must also reaffirm its commitment to allies that have been the targets of Russian bullying because of their willingness to work with Washington. The recent missile-defense agreement between Poland and the U.S., for instance, is not aimed at Russia. But this has not stopped senior Russian officials from speaking openly about military retaliation against Warsaw. Irrespective of our political differences over missile defense, Democrats and Republicans should join together in Congress to pledge solidarity with Poland, along with the Czech Republic, against these outrageous Russian threats.

US strategist calls for increased Baltic defences against Russia

In the light of Tunne Kelam's remarks at the weekend, it may be useful to read more about Fred Kagan's recommendations, which were presented in some detail in a Telegraph article of August 23. Excerpt:

Fred Kagan, the intellectual author of the successful US "troop surge" plan in Iraq, believes Nato's presence in the Baltics must be massively strengthened to pre-empt the risk of them being invaded in the same way as Georgia.

Such measures would infuriate Moscow, which last week warned that the installation of a US missile defence shield in Poland would ignite a new "arms race" between East and West.

But Mr Kagan, an expert on the Russian military who has the ear of hawks within the US administration, said that the West needed to match words with deeds if it was to stop Russia turning into an "intolerable, aggressive imperialistic" power.

"We need to help these countries develop sophisticated air defence and anti-tank capabilities that don't pose any offensive threat to Russia, but promise the possibility of very high casualties were they to attempt what they did in Georgia," said Mr Kagan in an interview with The Sunday Telegraph.

"Nato has to make a fundamental decision here about its legal and ethical obligations, and the only way we can really fulfil them is to help these countries defend themselves in advance of an attack."

Monday, August 25, 2008

MEP Tunne Kelam calls to boost NATO's military presence in Estonia

MEP Tunne Kelam calls to boost NATO's military presence in Estonia

10:33, 25. august 2008

TALLINN, Aug 25, BNS - Member of the European Parliament Tunne Kelam in his speech at a rally in Tallinn over the weekend called to beef up the military presence of NATO in Estonia because of military threat from Russia, SL Ohtuleht reported.

Against the backdrop of increased risk of aggression, Estonia should also increase defence spending, Kelam said at a meeting on Saturday to mark the passage of 21 years from the landmark 1987 Hirvepark rally in Tallinn held on the anniversary of the signing of the Molotov-Ribbentrop treaty and its secret protocols.

The remarks from Kelam, of the conservative Pro Patria and Res Publica Union (IRL), came on the same day when a prominent US military analyst called to increase NATO's presence on the ground in the Baltic countries.

Kelam told SL Ohtuleht he didn't know about Kagan's article before his speech and the article came as a surprise for him. Such coincidences show that the situation's ripe for change, he added.

Ain Seppik, vice chair of the opposition Center Party group in parliament and member of the parliamentary committee supervising the work of the country's secret services, described Kelam's idea as alien to him.

"I don't like foreign troops in Estonia in principle," he said.

Seppik said that Estonia can demonstrate its NATO member's status also in other ways and that this is being done enough already in Afghanistan and Iraq. Seppik did agree, however, that NATO has done relatively little for Estonia for the time being.

"NATO should better supply our defence forces and thus boost Estonia's military capabilities," Seppik said.

Just like Kelam, Seppik underlined that Estonia's expenditures for national defense must increase and no cuts must be made in them even under the austerity plan.
Senior Reform Party policymaker Jurgen Ligi, former minister of defense, said in his comments to the daily that first one must remember that Estonian military installations already are NATO bases and that the Amari air base, for instance, is a NATO air base.

Ligi said he considers Kelam's line of thinking to be right, as it is namely in the framework of NATO that Estonia must build its security.

"Russia's actions now are based on the logic of criminals -- if you beat someone, you get respect," Ligi said, adding that therefore it would not be bad if NATO showed its strength.
Fred Kagan, the intellectual author of the successful US "troop surge" plan in Iraq, believes NATO's presence in the Baltics must be massively strengthened to pre-empt the risk of them being invaded in the same way as Georgia.

Kagan, an expert on the Russian military who has the ear of hawks within the US administration, said in an interview with The Sunday Telegraph that the West needs to match words with deeds if it is to stop Russia turning into an "intolerable, aggressive imperialistic" power.

"We need to help these countries develop sophisticated air defense and anti-tank capabilities that don't pose any offensive threat to Russia, but promise the possibility of very high casualties were they to attempt what they did in Georgia," said Kagan.

"NATO has to make a fundamental decision here about its legal and ethical obligations, and the only way we can really fulfil them is to help these countries defend themselves in advance of an attack," he said.

At present, Kagan pointed out, there would be little to prevent Russia rolling across the border as they did into South Ossetia. Despite all the three Baltic countries now being members of NATO, the alliance has done little to help them build up robust anti-tank capabilities, sophisticated air defense systems, or large reserve armies.

Although any Russian action against a full NATO member would be a far greater act of aggression than its recent incursion into Georgia, Moscow might be tempted to try it in the Baltics as a way of testing NATO's resolve, knowing that the alliance might dither about deploying even conventional forces straightaway. Turning each country into a defensive "porcupine", Kagan argues, would make such a move almost unthinkable in the first place.

"I think that Russia does have designs on the Baltic states, and they have established a precedent in Georgia where they think they can use force to defend Russian minorities in other countries," he said.

Alastair Cameron, head of the European Security Program at the Royal United Services Institute, agreed that the invasion of Georgia had caused "tremendous concern" within the Baltics as to whether existing defences were adequate, but doubted that there would be any dramatic ramping up straightaway.

"Had Lithuania or Estonia been the target of the recent Russian campaign, they would have been in a position to take ground in a very similar way to how they did in Georgia," he said.
"I think we are still very much at the diplomatic level in terms of dealing with these kind of disputes at present, but I would think that something like might be on the table in terms of long-term defensive planning measures," he told The Sunday Telegraph.

How the West ignored the warning signs

President Mikhaeil Saakashvili has made a long televised speech in which he blames the Georgia crisis both on Russia and on the West's muted response to Russia's aggression. In his comments, he notes:

“I suppose that Russia started thinking about the military intervention in Georgia sometime in 2007,” he said. “[In July, 2007] Russia announced about pulling out from the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty limiting military forces in [Europe] and in Caucasus.”

Up to 3,000 Russian armored vehicles of various types rolled into Georgia, he said.

“We had only 200 tanks, because we had no right to have more according to the treaty; Russia brushed off its commitments by withdrawing from the treaty,” Saakashvili said.

He then once again criticized “western partners” for not paying enough attention to this move by Russia. 

The President is obviously right, as observers at Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty were pointing out even back in April 2007 that Putin's threat - later enacted - to suspend compliance with the amended 1999 CFE Treaty was obviously aimed against Georgia. Yet no action was taken by either the United States or European powers at the time.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Timeline of Events in the Russian Invasion & Occupation of Georgia

Service of the Government of Georgia

Timeline of Events in the
Russian Invasion & Occupation of Georgia
As of 13:00, August 24 2008

Subject: Timeline of Events

Timeline of Events in the Russian Invasion & Occupation of Georgia

As of 13:00, August 24 2008

The information below is accurate to the best of our knowledge, but is subject to verification.

12:50 Forest is on fire in the surroundings of village Gldani on the outskirts of Tbilisi.

11:30 Georgian police release AP journalists detained by Russian soldiers• An AP TV crew operating near Poti was arrested this morning by the Russian army because they did not have Russian media accreditation. They were taken to the Georgian police station in Poti and released there.

11:00 US Navy destroyer McFaul enters Batumi port.

10:30 Train carrying petroleum explodes on the railroad west of Gori.

• A train carrying 34 tanks of crude oil exploded at about 10:30 near the village of Skra, 7 km west of Gori, when moving from Azerbaijan to Batumi. 13 tanks are burning. The cause is suspected to be a Russian mine: Skra had been under full Russian control until the Russian pull-out of Gori. No casualties reported.

12:00 Russian military name the list of check-points in central Georgia

.• Chief of staff of Russian Army Anatoly Nogovitsin names at the press conferense places where Russian intends to organize checkpoints. In violation of the ceasefire agreement they are well out the conflict zone, namely in: Perevi – near Sachkhere; Ali - 90kms from Tbilisi and 7 Km from east-west highway, on the way from Khashuri to Sachkere and South Ossetia; Kvenatkotsa – in Kareli district near Agara, 1 km from eas-west highway; Variani – 10km north of Gori, on the road from Gori to Tskhinvali; Karaleti – 10km north of Gori, on the road to Tskhinvali; Shavshvebi – 40km west of Tbilisi on the east-west Highway, Monasteri – 35 Kms noerth-west from Tbilisi on the way to Akhalgori and 7kms from eastwest highway, Ikoti – 40Kms north-west from Tbilisi near town Akhalgori and 12kms from east-west highway.

11:30 Parliament of Georgia prolongs Martial Law till September 8.

20:00 Russian troops are leaving Gori and Khashuri in eastern Goergia and Senaki and Khobi in Western Georgia. Russian troops remain in Poti and village Perevi in Sachkhere district.

19:30 Russian troops explode remaining installations of military base near Gori in village Khurvaleti.

14:30 Russian troops start withdrawal from Igoeti and Kaspi 25kms from Tbilisi towards Gori. Gori remains under Russian control.

14:00 100 armored vehicles start movement from Senaki towards Zugdidi. Russian troops still remain in Senaki and Poti.

12:00 Deputy Chief of Staff of Russian Army Anatoly Nogovitsin states that Russia will keep 18 checkpoints on South Ossetian-Georgian “border” and in “buffer zone”. The same amount of Check points and 2142 soldiers will remain on Georgian-Abkhazian “border”.

10:00 No evidence of Russian troops withdrawal

02:30 Unknown explosive devices explode in Marneuli, under the railway bridge – no damage reported

Russian troops dig entrenchments in village Chuberi near Enguri Power Plant. Military presence of Russian troops reported at the dam infrastructure of power plant.

One Dies in Gori Blast []

One Dies in Gori Blast

Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 24 Aug.'08 / 18:31

A woman was killed as a result of an explosion of what appeared to be a mine in outskirts of the town of Gori, the Georgian media sources reported on August 24.

A man was badly injured in a separate explosion shortly after the first incident close to the same place.

Meanwhile, the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) said on August 24 that voluntary return of displaced persons back to Gori and adjacent areas had already started and warned returnees that they should “only go back to areas that have been cleared of mines and declared safe by authorities.”

“IDPs originating from villages and other areas not yet cleared by the authorities should be patient and to refrain from returning as yet,” it said.

The UN refugee agency also said that its team visited Gori this weekend to assess the situation in and around Gori. “UNHCR observed mine clearing actions and the re-establishment of Georgian police control over the town,” it said.

Brodsky on Evil

"Evil, especially political evil, is always a bad stylist."

"Evil takes root when one man starts to think that he is better than another."

“The surest defense against Evil is extreme individualism, originality of thinking, whimsicality, even - if you will - eccentricity. That is, something that can't be feigned, faked, imitated; something even a seasoned imposter couldn't be happy with.”

"Life, the way it really is, is a battle not between Bad and Good but between Bad and Worse."

"Auden's lines: 'Those to whom evil is done/Do evil in return' should be tattooed on every baby’s chest."

Joseph Brodsky (1940-1996)

France, Russia at Odds over Content of Leaders' Phone Talks []

France, Russia at Odds over Content of Leaders’ Phone Talks

Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 24 Aug.'08 / 01:34

French and Russian Presidents have agreed to replace Russian forces in so called “buffer zone” outside South Ossetia with OSCE monitors, the French President’s press office said in a statement – something which was strongly denied by the Kremlin.

French President, Nikola Sarkozy, spoke with his Russian counterpart, Dmitry Medvedev, on Saturday evening, August 23.

After the phone conversation the statement was posted on the French President’s website reading: “The two Presidents have agreed on the need to set up an international mechanism under the OSCE aegis to replace Russian patrols in the security zone in the south from South Ossetia.”

The Kremlin, however, has denied having such an agreement and even said that the issue was not at all discussed.

“There was no discussion of an issue related with the replacement of the Russian peacekeeping forces with monitors from OSCE,” the Russian news agencies quoted a statement by the Kremlin. “During the conversation with Nikola Sarkozy, Dmitry Medvedev reaffirmed [Russia’s] readiness to cooperate with OSCE in this zone in accordance to the fifth principles of the [six-point ceasefire accord] developed jointly by the French and Russian Presidents.”

Russia, which is trying to capitalize on a vaguely worded ceasefire accord brokered by the French President on behalf of EU, has set up stationary checkpoints in the southern areas from the breakaway region. One of the checkpoints is about five kilometers away from the town of Gori, on the road to Tskhinvali.

In what appears to be another controversy over the two Presidents’ phone conversation, the Kremlin also said that President Sarkozy “gave positive assessment to the pull back” of the Russian forces “within the timeframe announced by the Russian side.”

The French statement, however, says that Sarkozy urged Russia to completely honor its commitment and fully withdraw troops from deep inside the Georgian territory, in particular from Poti and Senaki.

“President Sarkozy insisted it was important that Russian troops present at the Poti/Senaki area should withdraw as soon as possible,” the statement on the French President’s website reads.


From The Observer (UK):

Georgian officials yesterday took The Observer by helicopter across a landscape of shimmering green pasture and mountain to the steamy port of Poti. Their aim was to show off its destruction by Russian soldiers - and to point out that they were still there.

Russian bombers destroyed Poti's naval base, killing five people, on the second day of the war. Yesterday, the gun turret of a sunken vessel stuck out above the turquoise water; nearby a white coastguard boat was listing and sunk. Russian soldiers had ransacked the port's main building, blowing open doors and upturning filing cabinets. One had written on a whiteboard: 'Georgian bitches. Die pederast cocks'.

'They turned up in 23 BMP armoured vehicles and took whatever was valuable,' said Reza Managadze, a port employee. 'They didn't even leave us anything to eat.' In a smashed-up medical room lay a portrait of Georgia's pro-US president Mikheil Saakashvili. A Russian soldier had stamped on it. He then added one word: 'Dick'.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Stumbling into a war

RFE/RL has an article by Brian Whitmore which provides yet more evidence that Russia's invasion of Georgia was a pre-planned affair. He lists numerous signs that Moscow had made elaborate arrangements connected with events of August 7-8, and points to the fact that "Russia's state-controlled media seemed extremely well-prepared to cover the outbreak of armed conflict in Georgia. Television networks immediately presented elaborate graphics with news anchors and commentators appearing to stick to disciplined talking points accusing Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili of aggression, and the Georgian armed forces of genocide and ethnic cleansing." In particular, Whitmore mentions the testimony of a Chechen Reuters photographer:

Said Tsarnayev stumbled into a war.

A Chechen freelance photographer with the Reuters news agency, Tsarnayev arrived in the South Ossetian capital, Tskhinvali, during the day on August 7. Traveling together with a colleague, Tsarnayev said he planned to take photographs of the environment and natural surroundings in the area for a project he was working on.

Once in Tskhinvali, he discovered a virtual army of Russian journalists at his hotel.

Speaking to RFE/RL's North Caucasus Service, Tsarnayev, a resident of the Chechen capital, Grozny, said the Moscow-based reporters had been sent from various Russian media outlets days earlier, and were preparing to cover something big.

"At the hotel we discovered that there were already 48 Russian journalists there. Together with us, there were 50 people," Tsarnayev said. "I was the only one representing a foreign news agency. The rest were from Russian media and they arrived three days before we did, as if they knew that something was going to happen. Earlier at the border crossing, we met one man who was taking his wife and children from Tskhinvali."

Late that night, armed conflict broke out between Russia and Georgia.

Germany, U.S. Say Russia’s Pull Out Incomplete []

Germany, U.S. Say Russia’s Pull Out Incomplete

Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 23 Aug.'08 / 22:10

The White House and the German government spokesmen said on August 23, that Russia has yet to fully comply with its committeemen undertaken by the six-point ceasefire accord.

“Putting up permanent facilities and checkpoints are inconsistent with the agreement,” White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe said. “We are in contact with the various parties to obtain clarification.”

Although Russia pulled back its troops from the town of Gori and key east-west highway in the central Georgia, the Russian forces keep checkpoints just outside port town of Poti and the town of Senaki in the western Georgia. Russian troops also have checkpoints on Georgia’s undisputed areas in the north of Gori. The closest one is just five kilometers away from Gori at the village of Karaleti.

“The [German] government expects Russia to complete the withdrawal immediately in accordance with the six-point plan also signed by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, and pull back its troops to the lines [held] before the outbreak of hostilities, as was agreed,” the German government’s spokesman, Thomas Steg, said in a statement, according to Reuters.

“According to our information, Russia has begun its withdrawal from Georgia, but not completed it,” he added.

He also said that German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, had spoken by phone to Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili on August 23.

“The German government expects the remaining Russian troops also to pull back from the zone south of South Ossetia, and for them to be replaced by an international mechanism as quickly as possible, in accordance with the agreements,” Steg said.

In a separate statement Steg also said that Chancellor Merkel had proposed EU to hold “a neighborhood conference” for Georgia.

The German weekly magazine Der Spiegel said Merkel’s idea was Georgia’s neighboring countries like Armenia and Azerbaijan to participate in the conference, but not Russia, Reuters reported.

The Other Concert

In his Window on Eurasia blog, Paul Goble writes about a concert that was held in Tallinn, Estonia, last week to celebrate the anniversary of the restoration of Estonia's independence in 1991 and to declare solidarity with the people of Georgia in the face of Russian aggression:

Unlike the Tskhinvali event, what happened in the Estonian capital has attracted little attention. It deserves to be better known.

More than 120,000 people assembled in the Song Festival grounds on the outskirts of Tallinn, to listen to Estonian and Georgian music groups, to wave Estonian and Georgian flags, and to listen to and cheer an address by Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves (, including a link to video of the event).

The Georgian singers expressed their gratitude to the support Estonia has given Tbilisi – Ilves joined the presidents of Latvia, Lithuania and Poland in travelling to Georgia following the Russian invasion – and the Estonians in the audience cheered the Georgians. But the most important part of the concert in terms of its message was Ilves’ speech.

Read it all.

US: "Russian invasion will hasten NATO membership for Georgia"

Russia's invasion of Georgia will speed Georgia's accession to NATO, US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, US envoy to the Caucasus Matthew Bryza has said: "I think what Russia has done now is the strongest catalyst it could have created to get Georgia in NATO." Bryza says he hopes that Georgia will be offered a Membership Action Plan in December.

Russia claims Tbilisi plans 'subversive acts' []

Russia Claims Tbilisi Plans ‘Subversive Acts’

Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 23 Aug.'08 / 15:16

A Russian military official has claimed that Georgia is restoring military capabilities “for repeat aggression.”

“Georgia is not being threatened by anyone in this region,” Anatoly Nogovitsin said at a news conference in Moscow on August 23. “However, in an attempt to resolve its territorial problem, Georgia has actually announced it is preparing for a third conflict – it seems two conflicts were not enough.”

Nogovitsin claimed that “provocations” were expected. He also claimed that Georgian special services were caching arms in order to use them for “subversive acts in South Ossetia and in its vicinity.”

Humanitarian Aid for Georgia

The European Union says it will provide 5 million euros in new aid to Georgia, and Japan has announced that it has sent one million US dollars in emergency humanitarian assistance to help over 150,000 people who have been displaced by the conflict between Moscow and Tbilisi.

Meanwhile, the USS McFaul is the first of three US navy ships carrying humanitarian aid, in the form of essential basic supplies, to approach Georgian waters. The US has already sent over 11 million dollars' worth of assistance.

Moscow called on cyberterrorists to attack Georgian government networks

In a report on a British government statement which confirms that Britain faces a steadily increasing threat of cyber attack, particularly from Russia and China, the London Times points to evidence that reveals the Kremlin's involvement in cyberterrorism against Georgia:

SecureWorks, an Atlanta-based company, said it had discovered communications suggesting that computers associated with Russian state-owned organisations called on known web-based criminal gangs to attack Georgian government networks hours before airstrikes began nearly two weeks ago. Lord West [Britain's Security Minister] said that he could not comment on the claims.

Georgians protest against Russian forces at Poti

Reuters reports that "up to 1,000 [later reports say thousands of] Georgians protested angrily on Saturday against the presence of about 20 Russian soldiers at a post just outside the strategic Black Sea port of Poti, insisting they had no right to stay there."

Moscow causes ecological disaster in Georgia

Paul Goble writes about the ecological catastrophe that Russian forces are organizing in Georgia in order to inflict a vindictive "punishment" on the country. Excerpt:

Writing on Monday, Tsikarishvili said that “the Russians have organized an ecological catastrophe, burning in the course of a few days the centuries-old forest in the unique Borzhomi nature reserve.” Because that park has no military purpose and because it is “located very far from the conflict zone,” the Russians appear to have done this just to be destructive. After the Russians set the fire, which as of that time had burned through 250 hectares, Georgians came to the assistance of the fire brigades “but considering the extent of the fire, the difficulty of getting into that isolated area, the wind and other problems,” they have not yet been able to put the fire out, Tsikarishvili said. Worse, he continued, “Russia prohibited Ukraine from taking part in the suppression of the fire,” something that guaranteed the fire would continue to spread, even though the Russian military did allow Turkish planes and helicopters to come in. But their effectiveness was limited because as a result of Russian actions, the planes had to fly back to Turkey to get water. And when the Georgians and the Turks appeared to be making progress in at least containing the fire, persons unknown but presumably either Russians, South Ossetians or some of the North Caucasus “volunteers” who have been guilty of so much marauding in Georgia threw incendiary devices to keep the fire going and to ensure that it would spread.

Friday, August 22, 2008

US: Russia not in compliance with ceasefire pact

Via BBC:

Following a statement by the Russian defence ministry that the withdrawal was complete, US President George W Bush and his French counterpart, Nicolas Sarkozy, expressed their dissatisfaction.

They agreed in a telephone call that "Russia is not in compliance" with the ceasefire pact and it should comply immediately, US officials said.

"[The Russians] have without a doubt failed to live up to their obligations. Establishing checkpoints, buffer zones are definitely not part of the agreement," the White House said

Russia plans to maintain grip on Poti, Senaki []

Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 22 Aug.'08 / 18:45

A Russian army map outlining the Russian troops’ planned deployment in Georgia shows they have no intention to give up control over Senaki and the port town of Poti.

In Moscow, the deputy chief of general staff of the Russian armed forces, Anatoly Nogovitsin, showed a map detailing what he said would be “zone of responsibility” of the Russian “peacekeepers.”

This includes checkpoints at Nabada, just outside Poti, and in Senaki, a town less than 40 kilometers away from Poti.

Georgia’s key military base and strategic airfield are located in Senaki.

“Airfield in Senaki is also part of the zone of responsibility of the Russian peacekeepers,” Nogovitsin said.

On the eastern front, in the South Ossetian conflict zone the Russian troops’ “zone of responsibility” includes southern areas from the South Ossetian administrative border. The zone even includes some portions of the Georgia’s major east-west highway – in particular at the village of Shavshvebi and Agara. The town of Gori itself is not part of the zone.

“Our forces will be pulled back to these zones of responsibility today,” Nogovitsin said.

The Russian forces started removing their checkpoints and roadblocks from some of the locations deep inside the Georgian territories, including from Gori and Igoeti. But there was no sign of the Russian troops’ withdrawal from the entrance of Poti.

“We will not and the world will not let the Russian forces to increase their zone activity deep inside the Georgian territory,” Davit Kezerashvili, the Georgian defense minister, said on August 22.

It also emerged on August 22, that Russia plans to keep 2,142 soldiers in Abkhazia as part of its peacekeeping forces.

Nogovitsin said that 109 armored personnel carriers (APC) – BTR-80s and BTR-70s; fourteen APCs of BTR-R145 type and four armored patrol vehicles – BRDM, as well as 34 mortar launchers will also remain in Abkhazia. The military unit in Abkhazia, he said, would also be supported by two Mi-24 combat helicopters and two Mi-8 helicopters.

Georgia Book of Condolences

The Georgian Foreign Ministry has opened a Book of Condolences for visitors to sign.

Russian troops leave Gori, but problems remain

RFE/RL has details of Russian troop movements in Georgia today. While no troops remain in Gori, some have left for South Ossetia, while others have been seen moving in the direction of Igoeti. The situation still looks problematic. Excerpt:

"What we see is not very encouraging," Liklikadze said. "From the direction of Gori, three armored vehicles are moving in our direction, plus two trucks loaded with personnel. And they passed us and went in the direction of Igoeti. I asked one of the [Russian] officers at the checkpoint who was wearing a peacekeeping armband, and he said they don't intend to stay for long. When I asked him to be more concrete, he said, 'We are waiting for orders. I can't tell you anything. My boss is General Borisov."

RFE/RL correspondent Goga Aptsiauri gave this account of how Russian General Vyacheslav Borisov, commander of Russian forces in the Gori region, interprets the terms of withdrawal.

"Yesterday [August 21], General Borisov had a fairly heated discussion with [Gori regional Governor Vladimer] Vardzelashvili about the so-called buffer zone," Aptsiauri reports. "Borisov had all kinds of maps out and was referring to the 1992 [cease-fire] agreement, which stipulates that the conflict zone included quite a lot of villages north of Gori in Gori district -- including two villages that are located along the main east-west highway, Shavshvebi and Agara. So if we go with that agreement, it would mean that the so-called peacekeepers who would replace the regular Russian troops will have the right to control the main highway, and even establish checkpoints."

Goga Aptsiauri has been reporting from Gori ever since it was seized, and has a blog.

The NATO Membership Dilemma

A correspondent has forwarded the following text:

Sent: 8/19/2008 10:39:14 A.M. Eastern Daylight Time
Subj: The NATO Membership Dilemma

A bleak picture emerges. What Stratfor could say but doesn’t, is that there are member states of NATO that are so weak and so exposed that they could in essence be conquered in a day, and that their conquest would also graphically demonstrate that NATO has gone defunct. Guerrilla resistance in such countries might continue a little longer, but there would probably be no place that NATO response forces could land, by air or by sea. Civil war cavalry guy Nathan Forrest said that in order to win, you’ve got to show up the “firstest with the mostest”. If you show up firstest with the mostest and take the venue in question (the prize, the bone of contention) over totally, the response forces of the second guy (NATO) won’t bother showing up to the party at all. Eastern Europe needs to do the “lift itself up by the hair” trick as demonstrated by Baron von Munchhausen, in terms of substantially improving its defense capability as quickly as is feasible. Put a different way, NATO needs to be buttressed and empowered in vulnerable locations at the behest of Eastern Europe for Eastern Europe. Only by rendering itself capable of being protected can Eastern Europe, with the help of NATO, put NATO into a position for helping Eastern Europe! For all I care, parts of Western Europe, which apparently don’t really care or are even at cross ends to our aspirations, should be given the opportunity to depart the alliance, if proven to be a liability and a dead weight. CEE needs to be urged by all good men and women, particularly in the diaspora, to lift itself up by the hair, or God (NATO) won’t be able to help those who didn’t bother to help themselves. Sorry about the mixing of metaphors.



NATO Membership Dilemma

August 18, 2008
NATO foreign ministers will meet Aug. 19 to discuss responses to the Russian invasion of Georgia. The United States is pressing for immediate action — although what that really means is movement toward admitting Georgia to NATO, rather than actual action. The Germans have expressed support for Georgia’s membership in the alliance, but the French and Italians appear to be hesitating, not wanting to trigger the confrontation with the Russians that would likely result from such a move. The newer members of NATO, those who formally belonged to the Warsaw Pact, tend to want aggressive movement to include Georgia and Ukraine in NATO. They want to see NATO assert itself, in order to be assured that the alliance will do that.

The problem is not that NATO is incapable of moving rapidly to include Ukraine and Georgia; it is a matter of what it means to be part of NATO. NATO was originally an anti-Soviet military alliance. It consisted of well-armed and well-trained armies — British, West German, Dutch and others — all backed by massive U.S. power and nuclear weapons. An attack on Europe would have meant an attack on NATO, and the Soviets never tried that. Had they done so, they would have faced a very dangerous military situation. The risks were much higher than the gains.

Most of today’s NATO members have minimal military forces that are poorly armed and trained. As important, the geography has shifted. From a compact western European alliance, NATO has become a sprawling entity, ranging from an exposed and barely defended flank in the Baltics to — if they were included — totally undefended Ukraine and Georgia. The forces necessary to defend those two countries would take years and hundreds of billions of dollars to recruit, arm and train. NATO was once able to defend Europe in the event of war. At this point, and for a very long time, the best NATO could do is to make a gesture of defense, particularly in the case of the vast Ukraine.
It is very doubtful that Western Europe has the will to develop a force capable of defending Georgia and Ukraine. Eastern Europe might have the will but not the resources, from manpower to technology. Thus, membership in NATO for Ukraine and Georgia would be a gesture without content. We are reminded of French and British guarantees to Poland in 1939. The French and British knew they could not protect Poland. The Germans knew it. Even the Poles knew it. The hope was that Germany, fearing a war with Britain and France, would not risk attacking Poland. But the Germans knew they could defeat Poland and, more to the point, were pretty confident that the British and French were all talk, and that a declaration of war wouldn’t mean all that much.

The NATO principle is that an attack on one would be an attack on all. The assumption is that the Russians wouldn’t risk a general war in Europe to threaten Georgia or the Ukraine. Alternatively, however, the Russians might view the threat of a general war as minimal, since the rest of Europe would not attack Russia from the West to defend Georgia. In other words, the Russians’ hesitation to attack Georgia would depend on their estimate of the likelihood of an attack on Russia by the Germans and Poles in response.
It is a risk Moscow might take. First, the Russians know the German and Polish military capacity — and the limits of available American power. Second, the failure to defend a member would destroy NATO’s credibility and shred the alliance. Most of the foreign ministers meeting on Tuesday are fully aware that extending NATO membership to Ukraine and Georgia not only would be merely a gesture, but also could set up a greater calamity for the alliance. The United States knows this as well, but is making the most aggressive gestures it can, knowing that NATO works by consensus and that a single dissent can block the move. Washington is sure that dissent will come from somewhere. In the meantime, it is making the most bellicose gestures possible, short of actually doing something.

The Boomerang

Among a varied crop of recent articles in Yezhednevny Zhurnal, defence analyst Alexander Golts reflects that Russia's "crushing reply" to Georgia is returning to it like a boomerang in the form of international condemnation, and makes the awkward-to-challenge point that a victory that is purely military is not really a victory at all. Commenting on the split between Ukraine's President Yuschchenko and Prime Minister Yulia Timoshenko over the events in South Ossetia, Inna Bulkina notes that in her foreign policy outlook, Timoshenko is aligning herself with the very countries which have been most passive about the Russian invasion and its consequences, and which would be least inclined to help Ukraine in a crisis. Meanwhile, in a review of US press reaction to the Georgia conflict, Masha Lipman does her best to convince her readers that the recent columns by correspondents like Michael Dobbs and Charles King, whose line is essentially that the trouble in Georgia is "not all Russia's fault", are only harbingers of things to come.

Investors quitting Russia

According to the BBC,

Russia has seen foreign reserves decline, a sign that the market is more nervous about investing in the region since the recent conflict in Georgia.
Central Bank figures show reserves were sharply down in the week ending 15 August, marking a fall of $16.4bn (£8.8bn) from $597.5bn a week earlier.

The FT says that
Investors pulled their money out of Russia in the wake of the Georgia conflict at the fastest rate since the 1998 rouble crisis, new figures showed on Thursday.

Celebrating aggression

Throughout the Georgian crisis, the Russian government's disinformation campaign has been so inefficient that it hasn't even managed to spread much disinformation. With few exceptions, the vast majority pf the international media have accepted the precise, credible and often deeply disturbing daily reports and updates by Georgia's official sources, including the country's multi-lingual President Saakashvili. Perhaps the saddest and most pathetic stage of Russia's attempt to distort the facts of its invasion of a sovereign state came yesterday, with the staging of a classical orchestral concert in the South Ossetian capital, Tskhinvali, to celebrate the Russian "victory" in Georgia.

Even as it becomes increasingly clear that most of the destruction and loss of life in Tskhinvali on August 8 was caused, not by Georgian forces, but by Russian aerial attacks, the musical event, with its sombre programme of Shostakovich's "Leningrad" Symphony and Tchaikovsky's "Pathetique", was intended among other things to mourn a massacre of innocents - not Georgian innocents, it was stressed by officials, but South Ossetian ones.The figures of dead reported by Russia were initially put at over 2,000. Yet most recent estimates put the number at below 100, and some even below 50. While any loss of life at all is tragic and deplorable, the exaggeration that is being practiced by Moscow and the South Ossetian authorities is really an insult to those who did die or were injured.

That the principal conductor of one of Britain's most renowned symphony orchestras should have lent his name and talents to this celebration of Russia's aggression is also regrettable. The Telegraph, whose  correspondent was present at the concert, probably best sums up the atmosphere:

Russian soldiers perched on the top of armoured personnel carriers, straining for a better view, as Orthodox priests, Jewish rabbis and even an imam passed through the audience granting benedictions to a self-proclaimed nation united in victory.

As the strains of Shostakovich filled the air, fresh smoke and sheets of flame from burning Georgian villages in South Ossetia rose from the hills - the latest sign that while the war may be over, the plight of civilians is not.

Yet Russian officers refused to acknowledge what was going on before their eyes. "What fire?", one snapped before striding off.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Valeria Novodvorskaya: Succumbing to madness

Succumbing to madness

by Valeria Novodvorskaya

Valeria Novodvorskaya is a Russian politician and dissident, the founder and chairwoman of Russia’s "Democratic Union" party

The original Russian text of the article is here. The translation is my own.

The fact that we in Russia are being ruled by criminals (Chekists are not just a Camorra but something even worse, because they are zombies who climbed out of the grave of the Soviet Union) is not as frightening as the fact that they are unprofessional losers . The war with Georgia is not only a crime, it’s a mistake. I can’t explain the behaviour of Putin, Medvedev & Co. except by supposing that they have completely lost their marbles. To the question "What are we fighting for?" the answer this time can be: "I’ve left my peasant house and gone to fight in Georgia to get some land back for the Chekists. Farewell my family, farewell my friends! Lubyanka, Lubyanka, my Lubyanka!"

Mikheil Saakashvili was skilfully provoked, dragged into conflict, and brought to the point where he attacked Tskhinvali. And had he not done that, a sarcastic Georgian opposition would have wiped him out, as they once wiped out Zviad Gamsakhurdia, who tried to prevent the Mkhedrioni paramilitaries and other guerrilla groups from robbing and plundering in Samachablo, which is South Ossetia, and who granted Abkhazia the status of a constituent entity of the confederation. The Georgian parliament disagreed, and for supporting Abkhazia, after the ”clever” Shevardnadze had sent his troops there, both Zviad and his parliament, who had already been driven out of the country and into Chechnya by the Georgian “patriots”, or militarists, were excluded by the Union of Georgian Citizens from the body of the Georgian nation (sic!). And among the present opposition in Georgia there are people who have called directly for war to be declared against Russia. Handing power to them would mean to court disaster and possibly a nuclear Armageddon.

For too long did the Russian "peacekeepers" stir up war in South Ossetia in order to prevent it, and too zealously did the Russian air force bomb Georgian villages beyond the borders of Samachablo (South Ossetia) so that the poor Georgian president would not be exposed to danger. One might have thought that the public, completely open annexation of Samachablo by Russia would already be sufficient madness. But that was not enough for Putin. And immediately the command was given to Abkhazians, who had long ago lost their dignity and pride and become Russian mercenaries helping to occupy the Kodori Gorge and Pankisi.

When refugees cry from the television screen: "Help South Ossetia!" – one can sympathize with them, but when one hears the voices from the crowd of poor Ossetians: "Help Abkhazia!" (And who else besides? Transnistria? ) – one starts to think of a mob. It means that the Chekists want to grab Abkhazia in their paws. And not only Abkhazia. The Russian troops entered Georgia. Gori, Senaki, Poti and Tbilisi Airport (the compass locator has been destroyed, and only elderly Georgian pilots will risk take-offs and landings). In the port of Poti, which is under a 95-year lease to the investment authority of a sheikh in the United Arab Emirates (Russia is also going to be sued by him on an international level) there were no military vessels. They bombed the oil pipeline that circumvents Russia. Bandit troops, a bandit country. The "tough guys” in Russia have settled things for everyone and have decided that this is how it is going to be everywhere.

At the UN, Churkin says that Russia’s aim is to get rid of Saakashvili. The last time the world heard such a thing, it was from the Jesuit Fathers in the sixteenth century. The annihilation of "impious princes". Religious fanatics killed Henry III and Henry IV. Since then, other killing has been done, but not out loud. Has the Kremlin decided to write its own Mein Kampf? Or have they all gone out of their minds? Georgia is being criss-crossed by ownerless columns of tanks full of Cossacks, "volunteers" and other marauding riff-raff. What are the Russian tanks doing in Gori? Gathering weapons? Or maybe it’s mushrooms and empty bottles?

These artificially created Russian citizens and this war that was launched as though to protect them -- that is plain ordinary fascism. And were it not for America... It appears that George Bush has at last realized what kind of serpent the West has been clutching to its bosom, and has taken a decisive stand for Georgia and against Russia. The powerful hand of the United States has been placed on the chalice of freedom and western values. The humanitarian aid that is being brought on US naval vessels and air force transport planes is an attempt to stop the war. The globe is still turning, and it has not yet been necessary to use the nuclear potential. John McCain writes articles like a Russian dissident. The presidents of Poland, Ukraine, Estonia, Lithuania and the prime minister of Latvia hold a rally, hand in hand, as on the Maidan in Kiev.

No one has supported us except Cuba and the patented tyrant Lukashenko. We have been thrown out of the G8 and from the civilized world into the cesspool of the outcast. And if South Ossetia and Abkhazia had simply wanted to secede, no one would have defended Saakashvili. The rights of a people take precedence over the rights of a state. But what they are seeking is not freedom but profitable slavery; they have not made passports of their own, but have been given Russian ones. . They are merely collaborators, not insurgents. Only the United States can save the Georgian people and the Russian recruits from mutual destruction. By now, I’m afraid that no one will save Russia. We shall be cursed and rejected by mankind.

Valeria Novodvorskaya

20.08.2008 12:39